A plan to unite struggling Interfaith Medical Center in Bedford-Stuyvesant with three other Brooklyn hospitals has received overwhelming support from community members and elected officials.
But some participants, who have long been invested in improving health care in the borough, said the restructuring alone wouldn't be sufficient to make the hospitals financially stable. The institutions are currently slated to receive $310 million from the state to plug operating deficits in 2017.
The plan, developed by Northwell Health's venture-capital arm with support from the state, recommends creating a joint board governing Interfaith, Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center, Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center and Wyckoff Heights Medical Center.
"As it is right now, this is a plan for failure," said Judy Wessler, former director of the Commission on the Public's Health System. "Unless there's money to operate, it's not going to happen."
Wessler clarified that the plan's recommendations are "excellent," and said it's great that the state has agreed to put up $700 million in capital funding over five years if it's adopted. But she said more needs to be done to help the hospitals improve their revenue streams so they can actually operate.
Wessler has been lobbying for state legislation that would define "safety net" hospitals more narrowly, so they would have to meet a higher threshold of Medicaid or uninsured patients to qualify. The legislation would offer those hospitals enhanced reimbursement rates for their services. The bill passed both houses in the last legislative session, but it was vetoed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The Coalition to Transform Interfaith, a group of community members and health care union representatives, participated in the drafting of Northwell's transformation plan. It has also endorsed the safety-net bill.
"Ensuring we have additional resources for these so-called distressed hospitals is critical," said Roger Green, a member of the coalition and a former New York state assemblyman, during a town-hall meeting Wednesday evening.
The restructuring plan includes recommendations to create operational efficiencies by pooling resources at the hospitals and turning Kingsbrook into a post-acute, long-term care and acute rehabilitation facility.
The plan would also create an extensive outpatient care network and a new health care information system that would allow patients' data to be shared among the institutions.
Although state funding is slated to be distributed over five years, some of the recommendations in the plan could take up to a decade to implement fully and start generating results, said Jeffrey Kraut, executive vice president of strategy and analytics at Northwell Health.
"No one can argue $700 million is a phenomenal start," he said, "but it may be insufficient to finish the job."
While Interfaith's president and chief executive, LaRay Brown, enthusiastically embraced Northwell's proposal at the meeting, not all of the hospitals are on board. Wyckoff Heights Medical Center would rather remain independent for now and cultivate its relationship with Northwell, Ramon Rodriguez, Wyckoff's chief executive, told Crain's in November.
"Plan to unite Brooklyn hospitals won't solve financial troubles, critics say" originally appeared in Crain's Cleveland Business.