Fred Mogul, Reporter, WNYC News
Fred Mogul has been covering healthcare and medicine for WNYC since 2002.
Two of Brooklyn’s largest hospitals are in early exploratory talks about joining forces.
One of them, Maimonides Medical Center, in Borough Park, is among the most financially healthy in a borough filled with struggling hospitals. The other, Brookdale University Medical Hospital and Medical Center, in East New York, has been close to bankruptcy for years.
Maimonides CEO Pam Brier cautioned she had no plan to use the hospital’s assets to tackle Brookdale’s massive debts.
"Maimonides is in the early stages of an in-depth review of Brookdale Hospital’s plans to be self-sufficient," Brier's spokeswoman told WNYC, via email. "After that, we will see what the next steps are. While we may consider an affiliation of some sort, we are not in merger talks, nor do we plan to use Maimonides assets to stabilize Brookdale.
Maimonides will be holding "town hall meetings" in the near future with the community to provide more details.
In 2011, a state panel chaired by private equity manager Stephen Berger recommended several Brooklyn hospitals merge or risk financial collapse. Berger chaired an earlier commission in 2006 that led to dozens of closures, mergers and retrenchments across the state.
According to the more recent panel’s report, Brookdale in 2010 was $285 million in debt and operating at a 13 percent annual loss. Maimonides had $185 million in assets. Brookdale’s occupancy rate was 58 percent, and Maimonides’ was 84 percent.
The panel suggested Brookdale merge with Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in Wingate. The two sides negotiated for months but eventually broke off talks.
The latest discussions come amid a wave of other bankruptcies, potential bankruptcies and merger talks.
An audit released last week by state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli found SUNY Downstate $165 million in debt and losing millions more each month.
“SUNY Downstate’s fiscal condition is dire and it needs all hands on deck if it is going to survive,” DiNapoli said.
The audit largely blamed Downstate’s merger with Long Island College Hospital and Victory Memorial in 2011 and 2008, respectively, and noted the system was plagued with high vacancy rates and disproportionate service to patients on Medicaid or without any insurance at all.
Interfaith Hospital in Crown Heights declared bankruptcy in December, potentially to buy time and lighten its debt load before a possible merger with Brooklyn Hospital Center in Fort Greene.
Peninsula Hospital in Rockaway, Queens, declared bankruptcy last summer and closed for good.
And just in the past week, Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx acquired Westchester Square Hospital through a bankruptcy auction, and New York-Presbyterian, the city’s largest private hospital system, announced plans to acquire Downtown Hospital in Lower Manhattan.
The story was first reported in Crain’s New York Business on Wednesday.