Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

Neighbors, Communities Unite in Common Cause

It’s most encouraging to witness the coming together of neighbors, and whole communities, in Westchester, particularly the River Towns, from Yonkers to Hastings-on-Hudson, to Dobbs Ferry and Irvington, in common cause against the “death notice” issued for Community Hospital by the Berger Commission. Resistance to the Commission’s secretly enacted recommendation moved into high gear last week with the announcement by Jim Foy, President of Saint John’s Riverside Hospital, which owns Community Hospital, that a suit had been filed
in State Supreme Court naming the Berger Commission, State Commissioner of Health Antonia Novello, and Governor George Pataki as Defendants.

The suit, an affirmative response to the threat of impending closure, was brought on behalf of Saint John’s Riverside, and its wholly owned af-filiate Community Hospital, as Plaintiffs. The hospitals contend that Community presents a bare minimum financial burden to the State as fewer than five percent of its patients receive Medicaid.

Further, the suit contends that closing of the Dobbs Ferry facility would cause the loss of some 300 jobs at the
site, and work a huge financial hardship on Saint John’s in its effort to service low-income residents of Yonkers, currently underwritten by profits from the Dobbs Ferry operation.

Driving through Hastings, Dobbs Ferry and Irvington, in particular, one was immediately impressed with hundreds of signs calling upon Westchester residents to contact their State representatives to demand that Community Hospital remain open. Residents are justifiably concerned that closure of the hospital would not only cause massive local job losses, but, more urgently, would cause accident and trauma victims to be transported for up to twenty minutes longer to the next nearest hospital emergency room from the River Towns. The suit, which is some twenty-six pages, contends that the Berger Commission’s activities, held in so-called “executive sessions,” were conducted in violation of the State’s Sunshine Laws, for the purpose of avoiding public awareness and scrutiny. Additionally, the suit expounds the theory that removal of Community’s Operating Certificate would constitute a “taking” without the Constitutionally required hearing opportunity.

It is interesting to note that twelve years ago, upon assuming office, Governor George Pataki proceeded to raid funds, and renege on programs that had been designated for elderly, infirm, and mentally handicapped citizens, essentially balancing his budget on their backs. Many of the progressive programs that had been developed over
the years to adequately service those citizens in greatest need of assistance were severely damaged, many ultimately failing for lack of funds.

It would appear that Mr. Pataki would now like to pull going out the door the same stunt he pulled coming in. Hey, George, don’t let the door hit you too hard on your way out!

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