The New York State Department of Health announced Wednesday that Northwell Health was awarded a grant to prepare a feasibility and sustainability study that could pave the way for the hospital system to manage a network formed by Brooklyn's financially challenged hospitals.
As Crain's reported last month, the Cuomo administration has spent months in discussions with big hospital networks that had the resources to manage those troubled facilities and boost primary and outpatient care in Brooklyn. But none were willing to sacrifice their own bottom lines by helping the failing hospitals, until Northwell Health finally agreed to this feasibility study.
The system, formerly known as the North Shore-LIJ Health System, will examine potential management or partnership arrangements with one or more of these institutions: Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center, Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center, Interfaith Medical Center, Wyckoff Heights Medical Center and University Hospital Brooklyn.
The study, whose parameters are online here, is expected to be submitted over the next three to four months, according to the announcement. Once completed, the state will use the findings to develop and issue a request for applications from those hospitals and other health care providers in the borough to undertake capital projects. Funding is from $700 million set aside in the state budget for overhauling Brooklyn's health care delivery system. The money was set aside a year ago but never awarded, delayed by the state's effort to get a big health system to commit to Brooklyn. Northwell already has a partnership agreement with Maimonides Medical Center.
There is immense financial pressure on the Cuomo administration to fix Brooklyn's long-ailing hospitals. In past years, the state has bailed out facilities to prevent them from closing. In announcing the study, the state disclosed that in 2017 fiscal year, Brookdale, Interfaith, Kingsbrook and Wyckoff will need nearly $300 million in direct state funding for operations so that they remain open.
Without “significant restructuring efforts targeted at reducing costs and increasing revenue,” the state said that estimated funding will grow to $380 million by its 2021 fiscal year—and that is without the state's subsidy to University Hospital, part of SUNY Downstate.
The wording of the study didn't explicitly state that at least one of the hospitals will close. But that is the expectation, as more health care shifts to outpatient settings and preventative care. One possibility is to consolidate inpatient care at a new facility that would be built on Brookdale's campus.
The study hints at that possibility. The analysis will examine how much state operating support is needed for "specific capital investments that would be required … to consolidate programs and facilities, rebuild needed facilities as well as to build an ambulatory care network, if necessary."
“Brookdale, as a major health care provider in East Brooklyn, supports the state's decision to have Northwell Health conduct a feasibility study,” said Mark Toney, Brookdale's president and chief executive. “We look forward to working with local leaders, residents, physicians, staff and unions on this opportunity for better access to better medical care in Brooklyn.”