State Officials Mull Another Brooklyn Hospital Merger

As state health officials mull the fate of Brooklyn's struggling hospitals, one plan under discussion would topple three struggling institutions and replace them with a new one. The idea is in the early stages and would be years away.

Stephen Berger, who led an earlier effort to improve healthcare in Brooklyn, was involved in what he characterized as "conceptual" conversations with state officials about a merger among Brookdale, Kingsbrook Jewish and University Hospital –- all of which have poor long-term prospects due to years of financial losses and large, aging structures.

But Berger emphasized the first priority is building Brooklyn a wide-ranging network of primary care and ambulatory care centers. Only once that is in place, he said, should officials look to forge a single new, modern, acute-care hospital that could be plugged into these clinics.

""As part of a long-term plan for Brooklyn, it would be a terrific idea," Berger said. "Hospitals are part of the healthcare system. They are not the healthcare system."

In the meantime, Berger said, the state might have little choice but to prop up the struggling hospitals.

In 2011, a committee he chaired proposed a series of mergers among six Brooklyn hospitals to lower costs, avoid bankruptcy, and "buy time" until more clinics could be built.

None of the hospitals, however, wanted to merge. One, Interfaith Medical Center, has since gone into bankruptcy and the others continue to be financially weak.