WSMC merger talks off

Merger talks between Westchester Square Medical Center and St. Barnabas Hospital have hit a snag, and according to Westchester Square’s CEO, the hospital will now seek other partners.

Elected officials and top personnel from WSMC remain optimistic that a solution can be reached to keep the hospital a vital, thriving part of the community.

Alan Kopman, president and CEO of WSMC dispelled rumors that the collapse of the partnership with St. Barnabas Hospital would effect the hospital’s future.

The hospital, located at 2475 St. Raymond’s Avenue, continues to pursue an affiliation and is also seeking funding to continue operating as an independent facility.

“At this point, we are pursing merging with one or two other hospitals that have expressed interest in us,” Kopman said. “Other than being named on the state’s [Berger Commission] list, we are a financially strong institution that will continue to serve the Bronx. I am very optimistic that Westchester Square Medical Center will continue to flourish.”

WSMC was named in the now-defunct Berger Commission’s report as a hospital that was a candidate for closure in a statewide push to eliminate beds as a cost-cutting measure. Kopman said that the designation was self-fulfilling.

“Without that designation, we would have emerged from bankruptcy by now,” Kopman said. “We will seek funding on our own. I am very optimistic about the future of the hospital.”

Both New York Presbyterian and St. Barnabas have confirmed that merger talks with WSMC are now off, with both hospitals citing financial concerns and the general economic climate as the main reasons.

A group of elected officials have worked with WSMC and helped it navigate through merger talks with New York Presbyterian and St. Barnabas Hospital, and with lenders.

Included are Senator Jeff Klein, Assemblyman Michael Benedetto and Councilman Jimmy Vacca, who all have put time and effort into either finding a partner for WSMC, or getting it independent funding to emerge stronger than ever.

“Westchester Square Medical Center is a vital part of our community and I am fighting to keep it open,” said Senator Klein. “I have been in contact with all the parties involved, and we are working to find a solution.”

Assemblyman Michael Benedetto said: “I introduced a bill in Albany two years ago that would exempt WSMC from the findings of the Berger Commission. We may need to resurrect that bill. I will speak to Senator Klein, and see about the chances of it passing.”

Councilman Jimmy Vacca said that the community is prepared to fight, if necessary, to keep the hospital, but added that the hospital is not in any immediate danger of falling.

“I think people should know that the hospital is in no imminent danger of closing,” Vacca said.

More from Around NYC