WSMC emergency room limbo

WSMC is pictured here

By Patrick Rocchio

Westchester Square Medical Center could take on a whole new look once Montefiore Medical Center completes takeover arrangements.

The biggest impact would include converting from an in-patient to out-patient facility.

That could mean the heavily used emergency department would continue, but at least 25% of patients walking in would have to be transported by ambulance to a nearby in-patient facility if they require admission.

Montefiore’s first and only statement on the possible purchase indicated that a new facility would “provide ambulatory surgery and primary care services, as well as full service emergency department.” No mention was made of in-patient care.

Asked about the issue of ER patients winding up in an ambulance for further medical help, a spokeswoman declined to comment “at this point in the process.”

The next major steps in the purchase process are clearing arrangements with a bankruptcy court to acquire the hospital’s assets, and receive clearance from the state Department of Health.

Assemblyman Michael Benedetto said he’s concerned that nearby Einstein and Jacobi hospitals are prepared to deal with a possible increase in ER visit as changes occur at WSMC.

According to the state Department of Health, WSMC’s emergency department saw 19,650 visits through the end of November 2012, of which 3,846 resulted in admissions to the 140-bed facility.

Total emergency room visits at WSMC have remained steady over the past few years, with 21,846 through all of 2011, 22,028 in 2010, and 21,737 in 2009 according to state DOH stats.

Throughout that time, though, it appears that the number of in-patient hospitalizations has declined. In 2009, admissions from the emergency department to the in-patient hospital at WSMC was 6,283. WSMC cut the number of beds in the facility in that time, said Benedetto.

The assemblyman added that he is in talks with unions representing hospital workers, who were cautiously optimistic regarding jobs.

Another elected official’s representative said he believes that some beds will be maintained at the facility to handle admissions, but declined to provide any details.

As of press time, Montefiore has not confirmed this or commented further.

Community Board 11 district manager Jeremy Warneke said he’s concerned any reduction in service at WSMC would have on nearby hospitals like Einstein and Jacobi, “But if it is a matter of money, what can you do? At some point, there is going to have to be some kind of resolution.”

Residents of the Westchester Square and Zerega community have renewed their calls for a “full-service hospital” to remain at the hospital, at St. Peter’s and St. Raymond avenues, including Lou Rocco, president of the Westchester Square Civic Association and Zerega community activist Hannah Acampora.

“I think if we lose the hospital, we are going to lose the emergency room as well,” said Rocco.

Acampora believes that the community should have more input in what happens to WSMC because Montefiore receives state money through HEAL grants, using taxpayer money.

Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at or by phone at (718) 742-3393

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