The hospitals have been in danger of closing since January due to a lack of funding, and this new development is likely to be the final nail in the coffin for the hospitals as they prepare to close by the end of February.
Hospital officials say that a delay in receiving claims from Medicaid, Medicare, and other private insurance providers has led to the company’s financial situation. Though the company, alongside concerned employees and community leaders, have been pleading for the state to step in and provide additional funding to the facilities, Caritas filed for bankruptcy on Friday, and the hospitals are expected to close by the end of the month.
“Caritas has filed for bankruptcy, and the hospitals are currently preparing for closure,” said Juliette Lewis, communications director for Mary the Immaculate.
In an official statement, Caritas said, “No adequate source of funding has been identified and no long-term plan for the continued operation of the hospitals, several ambulatory care facilities, and the Monsignor Fitzpatrick Nursing Pavillion, has been forthcoming.”
The statement described the board’s “deep” regret to file a closure plan for the hospitals, and a pessimistic outlook towards any possibility of keeping them open.
“Since there has been no official or unofficial news from Albany this week regarding a possible solution to the hospitals’ financial crisis, the board was, much to its dismay, left with no recourse,” continued the statement. “Time has essentially run out.”
Patients will continue to be admitted to the hospitals and treated by their staff of nearly 3,000 employees until February 14, at which point no new admissions will be permitted.
“People are mourning here,” said Kim Zambrotta, who has worked as a nurse at St. John’s for 25 years. “The grief is horrendous. This is my second family. We all look at each other and ask, ‘How can you close a full hospital?’”
St. John’s and Mary Immaculate are not the first hospitals to struggle financially in New York City, nor will they be the first to close. A similar scenario played out late last year at New Parkway Hospital in Forest Hills, which was also forced to close.
That closure has put additional stress on the remaining hospitals in Queens, including St. John’s and Mary Immaculate. The new closures will further stress the fewer and fewer hospitals that provide service for central and eastern Queens, including Elmurst and Wyckoff hospitals. Officials from Elmhurst Hospital say that they will not be able to handle the increase in patients that they are expecting from the closure of St. John’s and Mary Immaculate.
“The other hospitals aren’t going to be able to handle all the people of Queens, and there will be longer emergency room waits,” said Zambrotti. “God forbid somebody dies.”
Eager to save the hospitals, elected officials and community leaders rallied around the hospital, urging the state to step in and provide the additional funding needed to keep the facilities open. Though their efforts were ultimately unsuccessful, Caritas acknowledged the support of the community.
“For the past week, there has been a measure of guarded optimism about the future of St. John’s and Mary Immaculate Hospitals despite the dire financial crisis facing both institutions,” read a statement. “This glimmer of hope was based on the publicly expressed determination of our elected officials, led by New York State Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, to keep the hospitals open and serving the people of Queens.”
Hospital staff are organizing and working to keep their jobs by saving the hospital. On Tuesday, a meeting was held during which hospital administration addressed rumors of buyouts or bailouts, both of which are unlikely to come before the hospital is scheduled to close on February 28.
On Wednesday, a number of staff members at the hospital will stage a rally in Albany to pressure state legislators to fund the hospitals. They hope to meet with the majority leaders of the State Senate and Assembly.