New York's Mount Sinai Health System has revealed new details of its $500 million plan to shrink Mount Sinai Beth Israel and create Mount Sinai Downtown, a network of three core treatment centers and 16 doctors' offices that will stretch from the East River to the Hudson River below 34th Street. The plan includes the construction of a new, miniature version of Beth Israel on 14th Street and Second Avenue, two blocks from its current location, which is slated to open in 2020, pending state approval.
Susan Somerville, president of Mount Sinai Beth Israel, does not plan to weather the transition. Buried in Tuesday's announcement was the fact that Somerville has decided to leave her position as soon as the health system can find someone to replace her.
"My husband has retired and I will be joining him in order to pursue new opportunities out East," Somerville said in a statement. A Long Island resident, Somerville left her position as executive director of North Shore University Hospital to join Beth Israel in 2014.
Somerville's replacement will preside over a much smaller Beth Israel, designed by architectural firm Perkins Eastman, which will hold about 70 beds, down from 400, and an emergency department. Over the course of 18 months, Mount Sinai plans to transfer some of the acute-care services at the hospital to other facilities in the network.
Meanwhile, Beth Israel's Phillips Ambulatory Care Center, renamed Mount Sinai Downtown Union Square, will be updated to house a new urgent care center that will open in mid-2017, as well as a range of specialty services. Mount Sinai Cancer West is in the process of being transformed into Mount Sinai Downtown Chelsea Center, a women's facility that will integrate gynecology and breast cancer services. The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai on East 14th street will also be preserved.
Mount Sinai has pledged that some 4,000 unionized workers at Beth Israel will be offered jobs with equal or better pay elsewhere in the system, and 150 staff members have already accepted new positions, according to Tuesday's announcement. Mount Sinai expects to avoid layoffs by retraining and placing as many of Beth Israel's approximately 1,700 nonunion employees elsewhere in the system.
"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 Dr. Kenneth Davis, president and chief executive of the Mount Sinai Health System.
While Davis is describing the shift from inpatient to outpatient care as a "transformation," the health system has faced pushback from community members and local elected officials concerned that it is another hospital closure in disguise.
"You have to be wary about phrases like 'hospital reform,'" said Fred Hyde, a consultant to hospitals, and a former hospital executive, who now teaches at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. "That's not how hospital directors think."
Rather, he said, the decision to concentrate beds in central locations while attempting to transform other facilities into "referral centers" is "a rational business decision on the part of Mount Sinai" geared towards making the health system more sustainable.
"Communities tend to favor access and the question of access is one that should be taken seriously—much more seriously than it's taken by state regulators," Hyde added.
"President of Mount Sinai Beth Israel announces departure amid hospital downsizing" originally appeared in Crain's New York Business.