Rep. Fossella, Sen. Golden & Cm Gentile Open New Front In Battle To Preserve Er

Martin J. Golden

March 03, 2008

Following the State Department of Health’s (DOH) decision last week to maintain emergency and primary care at a Westchester hospital slated for closure under the Berger Commission, Congressman Vito Fossella, State Senator Marty Golden and Councilman Vincent Gentile today urged State officials to apply the same standard to Victory Memorial Hospital to continue providing emergency services at the site.

In a letter today to DOH Commissioner Richard Daines, Fossella, Golden and Gentile charged that the needs in southwest Brooklyn make a more compelling case for maintaining services than at the Community Hospital at Dobbs Ferry, which will house a new emergency room and primary care facility operated by St. John’s Riverside after the hospital closes later this year. The State said it established a new "hybrid model" for Dobbs Ferry, which is designed for communities that don’t necessarily require a full-service hospital but need a combination of emergency care and ambulatory care.

Fossella said, "If the State applies this new policy equally and fairly, there is no way they can justify denying our community emergency room services at the Victory site. However, I am concerned that the DOH is failing to consistently apply this new policy across the State, and particularly here in Brooklyn. The fact is that the State has failed to address the needs of the southwest Brooklyn community and is limiting access to life-saving care for all residents in the area. It is irresponsible and contrary to the mission of the DOH to respond to the health care needs of one community while ignoring the needs of another."

Golden said, "The Department of Health has had the ability to override the Berger Commission’s recommendations, when knowingly, a recommendation puts the health and safety of the community affected at risk. The Department of Health and the Governor must stand up for the people of our community and do the right thing. Closing the emergency room at the Victory Memorial Hospital site is a decision that will place our community in jeopardy. We need this Emergency Room to remain operational for the good of the neighborhood."

Gentile said, "Our community deserves the same ‘hybrid model’ for the Victory Memorial site that the State DOH gave the community of Westchester hospital. Our need for adequate emergency room space is even greater than where the DOH granted continued service in Dobbs Ferry. I'm glad the DOH did it for them, but now it is high time they do it for us, too. I continue to stand with my colleagues on this issue and will press on with them to bring a resolution to the emergency room looming crisis."

The lawmakers argued that the Berger Commission’s assessment of Victory Memorial Hospital relative to Dobbs Ferry makes a far greater case for maintaining emergency and ambulatory services in southwest Brooklyn.

Victory Memorial saw nearly 22,000 patients in its emergency department in 2004 while there were only 9,000 at Dobbs Ferry, according to the Berger Commission. The Commission also found that Dobbs Ferry’s patient population "readily could be absorbed" by nearby hospitals, including patients using its emergency services. By contrast, the Commission failed to comment on the capacity of nearby institutions to absorb Victory’s emergency visit volume.

The Commission also found that "the community [in southwest Brooklyn] does need access to comprehensive ambulatory care services" and that its 85,000 annual outpatient visits requires that "the community’s access to outpatient care should be preserved…"

Fossella said, "This has been the primary concern in the community’s opposition to the closure of Victory Memorial – the nearby hospitals in southwest Brooklyn do not have the capacity to absorb Victory’s emergency patient population. If the State finds justification in maintaining emergency services at Dobbs Ferry despite the Commission’s order for its orderly closure, it cannot deny the need for emergency services at Victory Memorial. The rationale in maintaining both emergency and primary care services at Dobbs Ferry directly applies to Victory Memorial. In fact, it makes a more compelling case for the DOH to continue offering emergency services at the Victory site."