Hospital Closure Already Rippling Across the Rockaways

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The anticipated closure of Peninsula Hospital has many in the Rockaways concerned about both their jobs and their community.

Jennifer MacMahon, a nurse who's worked at Peninsula for more than 20 years, says she'll find something eventually. But she's worried that nearby St. John's Episcopal Hospital won't be able to handle everyone's medical needs.

“The Rockaway peninsula is relying on one hospital now to take care of the entire community,” MacMahon said, “and it's causing a very unsafe, dangerous medical condition for the entire Rockaway community and their families.”

There have been reports of over-crowding at St. John’s, since Peninsula was largely closed by state health officials last month. At the time, the closure was believed to be temporary — pending improved inspections. But this week Peninsula’s recently appointed bankruptcy overseer said the hospital most likely would have to shut permanently.

St. John's CEO Nelson Toebbe said there has been a large increase in activity, especially in the emergency room, but he denied that waiting times have lengthened significantly.

“It’s typically in the range of two to four hours,” Toebbe said. “It’s increased slightly, but it’s not unusually different.”

He also denied reports that city Emergency Medical Services has repeatedly needed to divert ambulances to other hospitals because the St. John’s ER has been so backed up.

“That happens occasionally, even well before this occurred,” Toebbe said. “But it hasn’t been out of the ordinary — maybe a few times in the past 30-to-45 days.”

Fire Department officials could not immediately verify how frequently they’ve put St. John’s on ambulance diversion.

On Tuesday, outside St. John’s, patient Jonathan Stanley was not pleased with his ER waiting time. He was put in the ER’s “Fast Track” for a painful ear infection but had to wait four hours just to get some help.

“They should call it Slow Track, because the doctors are just walking past you,” Stanley said. “Nobody's asking, 'Are you all right? Do you need anything?' It's crazy.”