Beth Israel Hospital Closing Update

Nov 30, 2023

Forum organized by Mt. Sinai hospital to inform the community about the closing of

Beth Israel First Avenue &16th street Campus

by Anna Theofilopoulou - VID Executive Board Member


It became obvious from the start of the two-hour, hastily organized community forum that “the fix was in”! Mt. Sinai put out the word about the forum at the last minute, to basically present the community with a fait accompli! They are closing the hospital on First Ave. & 16th street next July and the presentation by six executives consisted of numbers to show us the impossibility of maintaining the hospital due to financial reasons!  They came with a power-point presentation, with numbers, charts & pies, expecting to shut us up. And as somebody pointed out, they chose a particularly small auditorium. Why? Because they didn't expect many people? Or to keep them out?

The executives were taking turns giving us the dire news while reassuring us that the interest of the community was uppermost in their mind, but sticking with generalities and only providing detailed accounts of the locations that they have been making investments and upgrades and are making money.  The Union Square building which they have turned into an Urgent Care, state of the art facility, was used as their proud example and accomplishment! Whenever a specific question was asked about plans to substitute services, or provide alternatives, they talked about coordinating with other neighboring hospitals or sending patients uptown to Morningside!

The fun started when they invited questions, clarifying that there should be no more than one, which all the elected representatives ignored.  Assemblywoman Deborah Glick asked the first awkward question that they fudged in answering; she was followed by a very accusatory Assemblyman Harvey Epstein who asked three questions, (no satisfactory answers), then Councilmember Carlina Rivera who asked why there were empty “reserved” seats up front with people standing in the back; then Councilmember Keith Powers, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, Senator Brian Kavanaugh and Senator Kristen Gonzalez asked questions.  Senator Nadler had sent a very articulate staffer who asked some very pointed questions. Councilmember Erik Botcher asked one question about provision of mental services. He was reassured that this service would be in place.

The gist of the questioning by elected representatives was: We have asked you to get back to us and let us know how we can work together to keep the hospital open; you never got back to us. We do not want to see the hospital close, what can we do to help you keep it open?  Mt. Sinai executives never gave any coherent answer to that, clearly as far as they were concerned, the hospital is closing in July and that's final.

When various hospital employees started making statements, it became clear that it was a case of mismanagement and a decision to move out of the old Beth Israel hospital various income producing services to other locations, and slowly but surely, bankrupt the hospital!  There were hairy details given by some nurses of incidents that happened because of deliberate moving of the services from their original locations resulting in patients having to be moved as far away as the hospital in Morningside! One nurse recounted how her own mother who had some kind of accident or severe illness was sent by ambulance to Morningside, resulting in hours lost in transport, with her mother dying 4 days later.  Then District Leader Arthur Schwartz made quite a sensational statement discussing his own heart attack that, because of the closing of St. Vincent's, got him to one of their facilities in the west side where it was proposed to send him to Morningside, which he refused. He demanded to be taken to Beth Israel emergency room where almost immediately he had 2 stents.  The following day he walked out of the hospital.  Arthur Schwartz also mentioned one or more lawsuits coming about the closing! Another participant observed that among the many hospital closings in lower Manhattan, there were Cabrini and St. Vincent. She asked, what had the politicians done about this?

By the end tempers were running high, several in the public insulted the executives, called them liars and shamed them.  Another participant in the audience made a fiery statement shaming the executives and closed by asking: Isn't there anybody to buy the 16th street building and run it as a hospital?  Toward the end, they did not look as smug as when they started. 

The only two elected representatives who stayed until the end were Senators Gonzalez and Kavanaugh who made some of the more thoughtful and substantive statements and questions. Senator Gonzalez made her presence known as the new representative of the area and expressed satisfaction that many people were attending.  

By closing and moving away needed services, such as the most lucrative operations, like maternal, natal, cardiac, pediatric, etc., care, before even announcing their plan to shut down, State Department of Health rules were violated. As the emergency room nurse who lost her mother and spoke in detail about her own personal experience recounted, they were acting with impunity! Did they break rules? It sounds like it and our elected representatives for the area should take note about this.

Based on the back and forth with the elected State representatives, it became clear there had been a discussion on how the State could help not to close 16th street. But every time the Mt. Sinai group was asked, they kept bringing up the large sums they were losing, as if it were somebody else's decision to close and move elsewhere the money-producing services!  

The State Department of Health approval is the next step required!