Tuesday, October 22, 2013

New $1 Billion Hospital Coming to Brooklyn?

A proposal to build a new hospital in East Flatbush that would replace the crumbling campuses of three existing hospitals has been quietly discussed by the Cuomo administration for the past few months. The hospital, which observers peg at $1 billion to build, would replace University, Brookdale and Kingsbrook Jewish hospitals. The proposed facility resulting from the consolidation would save money for more primary care. 

Stephen Berger, head of Brooklyn's Medicaid Redesign Team, said a new East Flatbush hospital would make sense as part of a 10-year plan for the borough—but only after a primary and urgent care infrastructure is in place in Brooklyn.

Mr. Berger spoke bluntly, saying that politicians, in particular leading Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio, need to accept the fact that some hospitals must close.

"What we are looking at are hospitals with infrastructures that are falling apart," he said.

But the political and fiscal hurdles are daunting.

Building a new hospital would take tremendous collaboration among the institutions, as well as incentives from the state Department of Health.

And the idea of closing hospitals fell flat with the nurses' union, the New York State Nurses Association, which has been protesting the proposed closure of Long Island College Hospital in Cobble Hill. The union has a "zero tolerance" policy when it comes to closures.

Also, a primary care network would have to be developed in advance of any changes in order to ensure access to health care.

So for now, the status quo will persist until enough money becomes available to plan for a borough-wide health care restructuring.

"We could use a new hospital in Brooklyn," said Dr. Richard Becker, chief executive of the Brooklyn Hospital Center. "But that's only a piece of it. The problem is so big one source of capital is not going to solve it."

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