Square Hospital life’s extended

The state Department of Health has granted Westchester Square Medical Center an extended operating certificate, allowing the hospital to remain open through December 31, 2010, and a ray of hope for its longtime continuance.

Without the certificate, the hospital, a health care choice for many, would close by the end of this year. The new certificate gives Westchester Square Medical Center time to explore merging with other hospitals and emerging from bankruptcy.

WSMC president and CEO Alan Kopman voiced his concern that without a license extension, the operation of the hospital could be in jeopardy, with more than 600 employees receiving notice in October. Senator Jeff Klein reached out to state DOH and the governor’s office, which was receptive and extended the license.

“This is a great day for Westchester Square Hospital, the Westchester Square-Zerega Community, and the Bronx as a whole,” Klein said. “A one-year extension for Westchester Square Medical Center allows us to continue fighting to keep the hospital open permanently. I will continue to do whatever I can to make this happen, but we must celebrate the fact the doors remain open, jobs remain secure throughout the holiday season, and we continue to fight another day.”

Klein said that he believes that the Department of Health’s decision to grant the extension is a sign that the hospital may be turning the page to a brighter future. He believes the DOH may be stepping back from the findings of the Berger Commission, which recommended closing the hospital.

“The extension of the operating license buys us time and I am hopeful that a year from now when the economy improves, as I think it will, WSMC will find another hospital to merge with or emerge on its own,” Klein said. “I don’t think the DOH would have granted this extension if they didn’t like what they see.”

The revelation that emergency rooms in the area are becoming extremely overcrowded, coupled with the fact that WSMC sees 25,000 patients a year in its ER, bodes well for its continued survival. The hospital was reported to be 95% occupied in a Joint Commission accreditation study in January.

Westchester Square Medical Center vice president Lisa Nenner said that the extension of the operating certificate is a good first step in a plan keeping the hospital open.

“The next step would be to provide the Department of Health with supporting material explaining why the hospital should be taken off the Berger Commission list,” Nenner said. “The third step would be to find a partner hospital for affiliation. There is still a lot of confidence and optimism.”

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