Westchester Square Medical Center loses savior

With the economy slowing and news that the borough and the country are in a recession, a proposal to save Westchester Square Medical Center by merging it with New York Presbyterian Hospital to reduce beds has fallen through, possibly endangering the long-term viability of the hospital.

The merger was originally given the go ahead by the state Department of Health. Due to economic issues, New York Presbyterian Hospital has backed out of the deal.

Ironically, the news last April that the hospital would merge with New York Presbyterian Hospital served as a model for saving two other hospitals in New York State. According to Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, the merger would have reduced the number of beds at WSMC from 150 to 100.

“It is of vital importance that we keep Westchester Square Medical Center open,” said Senator Jeff Klein. “Despite our initial success in overturning the Berger Commission and working with the New York State Department of Health, tough fiscal times have made it impossible for New York Presbyterian to continue with the merger as originally discussed. However, I am committed to finding an appropriate hospital to partner with WSMC.”

WSMC, located at 2475 St. Raymond Avenue, was scheduled for closure due to the state-initiated commission mandating that the total number of hospital beds be reduced throughout the state. The Berger Commission, now disbanded, was an entity appointed by former Governor George Pataki to rein in healthcare costs

“I think our goal is to reduce the total number of beds at WSMC,” said WSMC vice-president Lisa Nenner. “We assume that we would still have to reduce the number of beds at WSMC because it was part of the planned merger with New York Presbyterian, but we would still have to discuss it with the state.”

WSMC officials said that despite the bad news, the hospital would continue operating and seek new partnerships with larger institutions. As part of these new partnerships, WSMC would have to reduce total number of beds, but the larger institution would not, according to Nenner.

“The New York State Department of Health has extended our operating license through June 2009,” Nenner said. “We are currently in discussion with other institutions and continue to provide the high quality health care that the Bronx community has come to expect from us.”

Benedetto found the whole situation regrettable.

“I am very distressed by what has happened in regard to WSMC,” he said. “To have this deal come undone at the last minute is very disturbing. Both Senator Klein and myself have bills pending in Albany that would exclude WSMC from the Berger Commission’s cuts. Hopefully, we find another hospital they can link up with.”

Benedetto said that whether WSMC merges with St. Barnabas, which has been cited in some published reports as a possible partner, but denied by WSMC, or another medical facility, as long as the number of beds meets state DOH requirements, the hospital should remain viable.

“I think the importance of WSMC to our community is not debatable,” Benedetto said. “To the best of my knowledge, all of the beds the hospital has are occupied. ”

Both Klein, the architect of the original proposal, and Benedetto, promised to work on the state level to correct the problems created by New York Presbyterian Hospital’s change of plans.

WSMC, Westchester Square Medical Center

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