CB3 is Looking For Feedback on Beth Israel Downsizing

Beth Israel Hospital.

Beth Israel Hospital.

Coming up on Thursday, Community Board 3’s health and human services committee will be holding a forum on the downsizing of Beth Israel Hospital. Here’s the board’s meeting notice:

Beth Israel Hospital has already closed its labor and delivery department. Other medical services are also being moved uptown. In a few years, the full service hospital at First Avenue and 16th Street will be completely closed. What medical services does Mount Sinai need to continue to provide in our community?

We need to tell Mount Sinai now. CB3 needs community input to understand your needs as we work in influence the restructuring plans of the Mount Sinai Health System.

Come tell CB 3 what is important for your family and friends.

In 2016, the Mount Sinai Health System announced it would close Beth Israel and build a much smaller facility at 14th Street and Second Avenue.

The upcoming meeting will be held at the Sirovich Senior Center, 331 East 12th St. It begins at 6:30 p.m.

(Renderings) Beth Israel’s New 14th Street Building

Renderings by Perkins Eastman.

Renderings by Perkins Eastman.

We’re getting our first look today at the new Beth Israel Hospital.

Back in May, Mount Sinai Health System dropped the bombshell news that it is closing the existing complex on 16th Street, replacing it with a smaller hospital and a variety of satellite health centers across Lower Manhattan.

Initial renderings from the architectural firm, Perkins Eastman, were released today. In a news release, Mount Sinai indicated that final designs are still in the works. Beth Israel, a Lower East Side fixture since 1889, has 800 beds. The new facility, to be located on 14th Street and 2nd Avenue, will include an emergency room and about 70 beds. Mount Sinai Management has said the current hospital is no longer cost effective.

The press release indicated that demolition on 16th Street is likely early next year, pending Buildings Department approvals. Construction would begin in early 2018 with an opening anticipated in late 2020. Services are being moved to other Mount Sinai locations. You can read the full news release for details.

Mount Sinai has positioned the changes as part of a $500 million “downtown transformation.” From today’s release:

Mount Sinai Downtown will be anchored by a new (Beth Israel) inpatient hospital with operating and procedure rooms, and a brand-new state-of-the-art Emergency Department, located two blocks from the current MSBI. The transformation will also include a major investment to support and strengthen behavioral health services, anchored at MSBI’s Bernstein Pavilion. Additionally, the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai will be preserved and enhanced. MSBI hospital will remain open throughout this transformation, and its emergency room will remain open until the new ED is fully operational at the new hospital. “Our more than $500 million investment marks an exciting time, not only for Mount Sinai’s employees and patients, but also the entire Downtown community, as we truly transform how patients access and receive the health care services they need,” said Kenneth L. Davis, MD, CEO and President of the Mount Sinai Health System.

Earlier today, EV Grieve explained:

Part of this new complex will sit on space belonging to 321 E. 13th St., a 14-floor building between Second Avenue and First Avenue that houses training physicians and staff of the nearby New York Eye and Ear Infirmary. This building will be demolished.

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Community Members Voice Concerns Regarding Beth Israel Downsizing

Mount Sinai Beth Israel hospital.

Mount Sinai Beth Israel hospital. Photo: Alex Gerald

Lower East Side residents will get another chance tonight to address Mount Sinai officials about their decision to close Beth Israel’s current facility and build a new hospital on 14th Street. It’s the second of two community board meetings co-hosted by Community Boards 3 and 6. This evening’s meeting takes place at 6:30 p.m. at the NYU School of Dentistry, Nursing & Architecture, Room 611, 345 East 24th St.

In the earlier session, held on June 9, Mount Sinai Health System executives Brad Korn and Brad Beckstrom took questions from local residents and listened to concerns about the upcoming changes. The number of inpatient beds slated for the new facility was a main concern for residents. Last month, Mount Sinai announced plans to close Beth Israel’s approximately 672-bed complex on 16th Street and build a new 70-bed facility a few blocks away. The 153-bed behavioral health hospital on Nathan D. Perlman Place will remain as is.

One retired nurse who has worked at Beth Israel wondered how the hospital would choose who gets in with so few inpatient beds. “If someone gets sick – has a seizure right now,” she said, the ambulance would take them straight to Beth Israel. “If you have a 70 bed unit, when they get to Beth Israel, what’s going to happen? What’s the criteria for admission?”

“I think we need a clinician to answer that question,” said the hospital officials, although they stressed that in general, “more and more conditions are able to be treated on an outpatient basis.”

Debra Glass, a CB3 member, asked about insurance: “Is there a possibility that the [downsizing] means some health care plans will no longer be accepted?” Another community board member asked specifically about Medicaid and EmblemHealth.

The representatives’ said they can’t guarantee “five years from now what the situation will be with a particular carrier,” because contracts are renewed and renegotiated every few years. But Medicaid will be accepted “without question,” and most other carriers should be accepted as well. “The hospital takes almost everybody,” the representatives said.

Another resident raised concerns about Beth Israel’s 5,000 employees. “You said services will not be affected, yet you will probably cut staff. I would like to know what number of staff you will be cutting, ‘cause that has an impact on the service. Give us a number.”

Of the 4,000 who have union jobs, the Mount Sinai officials said, “we believe over a four year period all those individuals will transition to other union jobs within the system.” And the non-union employees? “We believe most of those also will be able to transition.”

Vaylateena Jones, chair of CB3’s health committee, asked about mental health services in the neighborhood, citing a situation from a few years ago in which an elementary school student drowned in the East River. The student’s friends and family needed counseling. “The issue was, [they] couldn’t get an appointment for like three months, and they were sad right then,” Jones said.

The Mount Sinai officials offered a possible solution: The  Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center in East Harlem. “There’s wealth in having a system,” they said, referring to Mount Sinai’s network of New York City hospitals.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer wasn’t happy with the answer. “[The kids] need to go in their neighborhood,” she said. “We love Angela Diaz, but we need an Angela Diaz down here,” she added, referring to the adolescent health center’s lauded director.

The 2010 shuttering of Saint Vincent’s hospital in the West Village was also fresh on LES residents’ minds. CB3 member Alysha Lewis-Coleman was referred to Beth Israel when Saint Vincent’s closed. “It was very overcrowded. It took me months to get a doctors appointment for my children and myself,” she told the Mount Sinai reps. “Now that you’re downsizing, I’m concerned that there’s gonna be another issue with families that are gonna feel displaced.”

Another long-time resident agreed. “I think a lot of us are traumatized by what happened around the Saint Vincent’s situation and also around Cabrini that happened previous to that,” he said. “We’ve seen inpatient facilities that are available to our community disappear.”

“Saint Vincent’s was a stand alone hospital,” the Mount Sinai officials responded. “Why we are able to withstand what’s going on at Beth Israel is we’re part of a larger system.” If Beth Israel was a stand alone hospital, they added, it would go broke by the end of summer 2016.

One resident pushed back: “For 126 years, it’s been what it is and hasn’t gone broke. You can paint it how you want to paint it. Three years ago you merged with this institution, with the optics of the future that you were going to downsize it. It feels like you guys knew you were gonna do this, you knew how you were gonna do it,” he said, “and now you come to the community and you’re telling us we have to take it.”

One CB3 member voiced a general lack of faith in Mount Sinai’s downsizing process. “It doesn’t feel honest,” he said. “It also feels like my neighborhood, which is not as wealthy as where you’re moving – up toward Gramercy, up toward Midtown – is getting the short end of the stick.”

“The big issue is we’re leaving lower Manhattan without a large hospital,” said Luke Henry, also a CB3 member. ”That’s the bottom line.”

Community Board Three members address Mount Sinai officials on June 9. Photo: Alex Gerald.

Community Board 3 members address Mount Sinai officials on June 9. Photo: Alex Gerald.

Beth Israel is Closing; Smaller Hospital Planned on 2nd Avenue

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Beth Israel Hospital, a fixture on the Lower East Side since 1889, is shuttering its 16th Street building and opening a much smaller facility in the neighborhood. The downsizing announcement was made today by the medical center’s owner, Mount Sinai Health System.

Hospital executives say that less than 60% of the 800 beds in the current building are in use at any given time. Mount Sinai plans to sell the property, which is valued at about $600 million. It will build a new facility with around 70 beds and an emergency room two blocks to the south of Beth Israel’s longtime home. It’s part of a $500 million strategy being rolled out by the health care conglomerate to “transform care delivery” and “dramatically improve access, increase quality and preserve jobs.”

More details from a press release distributed by Mount Sinai a short time ago:

Central to the downtown transformation is the new, smaller Mount Sinai Downtown Beth Israel Hospital, which will include approximately 70 beds and a brand new state-of-the-art Emergency Department (ED), located at 14th Street near Second Avenue — just two blocks south of the current Beth Israel campus. This ED will accept ambulances and will be able to handle all emergencies, such as heart attack, and stroke, on site. It will also include a pediatric ED. Patients with the most complex conditions will be stabilized and transported to other hospitals in the Mount Sinai Health System. Service at the existing MSBI ED will continue without interruption until the new facility opens, which is expected in about four years. The new MSBI hospital’s inpatient beds may be increased in the event the community’s healthcare needs require additional capacity. Mount Sinai will also be making a substantial investment in the Phillips Ambulatory Care Center (PACC) on Union Square, where renovations are already under way. At 275,000 square feet, PACC will be New York’s largest freestanding ambulatory care center in New York. It currently houses a full range of multispecialty services, including a state-of-the-art same day surgery center, radiology, surgical and medical specialties, pediatrics and obstetrics. PACC’s services will be expanded to include endoscopy and additional medical and surgical specialty services. Same day surgery will include 24/7 services for extended recovery. By early 2017, the site will also house a comprehensive urgent care center with weekend and evening hours.

While Mount Sinai executives say services will not be diminished, the news is already being met with alarm throughout Lower Manhattan. As the Wall Street Journal explained today:

(The) plan continues a broader retrenchment of hospitals in New York City, where a number of facilities have closed in recent years due to financial losses or under a statewide plan to reduce excess capacity. The 2010 closure of St. Vincent’s Hospital, in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village neighborhood, angered local residents who feared loss of access to emergency care and other medical services. Cabrini Medical Center, in Manhattan’s Gramercy Park, closed in 2008 and Long Island College Hospital, located in Brooklyn, closed in 2014. In recent weeks, rumors of Beth Israel’s closure have worried local residents and elected officials. “Any downsizing or closure at Beth Israel threatens to further strain an already overburdened network of health-care providers in Manhattan, reduce healthcare options and curtail services in the immediate neighborhood, and eliminate jobs,” wrote seven elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney and City Councilmembers Daniel Garodnick and Rosie Mendez, earlier this month.

Mount Sinai points out (citing a 2014 study) that Manhattan has 6.1 hospital beds per 1,000 residents compared with 2.9 nationally. Beth Israel lost more than $100 million last year alone.