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Hospital's woes show need for wider plan in Brooklyn

A doctor waits during surgery at Johns Hopkins

A doctor waits during surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. (June 26, 2012) Photo Credit: Getty Images

The vital signs for Brooklyn's Interfaith Medical Center are fading fast. While union workers and others rally to save their jobs and keep the doors open, Albany is tired of rushing in emergency cash transfusions.

Last week Interfaith flirted with chaos when it looked as if it might fail to meet its next payroll. Ambulances were temporarily diverted and dozens of hospital workers protested outside the office of the CEO, who then called for a police escort so he could leave the building. He had already tendered his resignation, but he was fired anyway.

The hospital's prognosis is day to day, but Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo can help fix this mess.

Interfaith has failed to adapt in a rapidly changing world of health care economics. Union members and activists -- including de Blasio at times -- like to frame the issue as one of fairness. Why should hospitals such as Interfaith -- whose patients in Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant are mostly poor -- face extinction while hospitals in wealthier areas thrive?

Actually, any hospital needs financial viability as well as a realistic idea about its market and its mission.

The good news: For all his exhortations on the ramparts about saving beleaguered hospitals in Brooklyn, de Blasio appears to understand that. Major decisions have been made about hospitals over the last decade based on no plan whatsoever, he said Tuesday. Hospitals have been closing for individual reasons with no larger strategy in place -- and that has to end, he said.

It now falls to de Blasio and Cuomo -- who cited the Brooklyn hospital emergency Tuesday in his budget talk -- to find a solution. Brooklyn's struggling hospitals must grow smaller and more specialized. They should expand outpatient care and shrink inpatient care. And they might consider forming a health care network.

Perhaps one institution could focus on pediatric care and another could become a cardiac hub, and so on.

Downside? Some jobs would likely be lost. That's a pity. But old full-service institutions can't, and won't, exist only to save jobs. Patient care and solvency must come first.


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