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Northwell network may rescue Brooklyn's hospitals

Brooklyn's troubled healthcare system may be close to finding a savior: Northwell Health is in talks with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration about managing a new network anchored by the borough's most distressed community hospitals, according to people briefed on the discussions.

Some $700 million in state money has been reserved for overhauling Brooklyn's healthcare delivery system, but it has yet to be released despite the urgent need. Four of Brooklyn's hospitals are on the state's financial-distress watch list, with fewer than 15 days cash on hand.

The Cuomo administration has held talks with big hospital networks with the resources to manage those troubled facilities and boost primary and outpatient care in Brooklyn. But none have been willing to ­sacrifice their own bottom lines by helping the failing hospitals.

Northwell is now moving closer to agreeing to a feasibility study that could pave the way for a deal, said those familiar with the talks. The $7.8 billion system would create and manage a network of hospitals, ambulatory care centers, surgery centers and primary care clinics across Brooklyn incorporating Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center, Interfaith Medical Center, Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center and Wyckoff Heights Medical Center. Northwell is already in a partnership with Maimonides Medical Center.

In a statement, Northwell (formerly North Shore-LIJ Health System) said it will “continue to talk to state officials and will try to be helpful where we can, but there is no agreement on a feasibility study.” In Brooklyn, it added, its primary focus is on Maimonides.

There is a lot of political distance to travel before Northwell signs any management contract. A feasibility study is likely to show that some hospitals must downsize or close. Brookdale, an old, crumbling facility, gets a state subsidy of $100 million a year to keep it afloat as an essential provider. Brookdale's management and some politicians would like to see the $700 million used to build a new hospital on its 11.4-acre campus, at a cost of at least $1 billion. A more politically unpopular choice is to take down Brookdale's antiquated building and replace it with a Northwell-run hospital network with multiple outpatient locations and 24-hour sites.

Brooklyn lawmakers are impatient with Cuomo's inaction on that $700 million. Last month, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and 15 local politicians wrote to Cuomo about his lack of a “specific plan on how this money will be used in Brooklyn. The silence from your office and the New York State Department of Health adds speculation to rumors that hospitals will be closed, merged, or both,” the letter reads.

"Northwell network may rescue Brooklyn's hospitals" originally appeared in Crain's New York Business.


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