A controversial proposal to shrink New York City's public hospital system by selling off individual facilities instead of reducing overall bed capacity won qualified support last week from a citizens watchdog group.
While it makes sense to divest some facilities, the mayor's moves to single out three public hospitals for sale aren't supported by "clear logic," according to a report endorsed by the Citizens Budget Commission.
The report was released last week bythe New York-based Twentieth Century Fund, a not-for-profit public policy research foundation. Researchers said they haven't received a response to their observations and recommendations, although a copy of the report was sent to City Hall some 10 days earlier. At press time, the mayor's press office hadn't responded to a request for comment.
Charles Brecher, one of the report's authors, faulted Mayor Rudolph Giuliani for announcing plans to privatize Coney Island Hospital, Elmhurst Hospital Center and Queens Hospital Center before establishing a long-range plan for New York City Health and Hospitals Corp., the entity that runs those facilities. The mayor's "sell now, plan later" approach "seemed to put things in the wrong order," Brecher said.
Deciding which hospitals to sell should be based on the financial implications for city taxpayers, the impact on access to care for the uninsured and the effect on HHC's future capital needs, the report said.
Those criteria don't support the mayor's choices, the report said, particularly for Elmhurst, a relatively new facility serving numerous uninsured patients.
The report suggested that Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center, which isn't for sale, might be a better choice because it serves relatively few uninsured patients and has a larger operating deficit than Elmhurst.
While the report favors sensible privatization, researchers also recommended retaining a publicly accountable entity, such as HHC, to ensure access to care for the poor, but in a scaled-down and restructured form.