Berger Commission says no to expanding Victory Hospital site

Southwest Brooklyn is not getting an emergency room anytimesoon, according to the Berger Commission, which recently completeda report on restructuring health care in the borough.

Since Long Island College Hospital (LICH) was recently acquiredby SUNY Downstate Medical Center – which runs an urgent care centerat the former Victory Memorial Hospital site — the report suggeststhat all inpatient services be consolidated at LICH, eliminatingany plans for an expansion of services at Victory, whichneighborhood advocates said is needed.

With the new campus and expansion of services at neighboringKings County Hospital, SUNY Downstate should reconsider any plannedexpansion of beds at the former Victory Hospital site and anydevelopment of an ambulatory facility in the vicinity of UniversityHospital or at the former Victory Hospital site, the reportstates. Any request by SUNY Downstate to open additional inpatientbeds at the Victory Hospital site should be denied.

According to the Berger Commission, among the challenges thatBrooklyn hospitals as a whole face are high rates of chronicdisease, health needs and health care resources [that] varywidely by neighborhood, high rates of preventablehospitalizations and above-average lengths of stay, and lowoccupancy levels of existing hospital beds, with approximately 30percent empty on any given day.

Victory was closed over continued opposition from local electedofficials and activists after the release of the last BergerCommission report in 2006.

Since southwest Brooklyn lacks any sort of hospital- the closestare Lutheran Medical Center in Sunset Park and Maimonides MedicalCenter in Borough Park – the news was quite unwelcome.

This is criminal and we need to take a stand, said CommunityBoard 11 Chair Bill Guarinello at the board’s December meeting.

Guarinello went onto say that the outpatient services at theformer Victory site are great for things like stitches and brokenarms, but the center is only open until 11 p.m. and those with realemergencies have to travel miles to get assistance. According toGuarinello, the site is well-equipped and ready for expansion.

It can be an emergency room tomorrow, he said. I think it’stime we start pushing back. Politics should be thrown out thewindow and we need to focus on health care. There is nothingaccessible in this area.

Assemblymember Peter Abbate and board members are planning ameeting for sometime in January or February with all local electedofficials and Community Board 10 to discuss the issue.

What they are trying to do in upper Brooklyn is close and mergehospitals while us down here are being ignored, Abbate said at theCB 11 December meeting. We have to show that Victory is being usedand Downstate needs to get on board – we need to be moreoutspoken.

What the Berger Commission is recommending for Brooklyn couldconceivably become a model for changes in health care deliverythroughout the state, according to a November 28 cover letter fromStephen Berger, the commission head, to Dr. Nirav Shah, thecommissioner of the New York State Department of Health.

Wrote Berger, You stated your hope that our proposals could beused as a template where appropriate throughout the state. Theresulting report, he added, provides a roadmap, for the creationof integrated systems of care aligned with community needs.

SUNY Downstate hadn’t responded to requests for comment as ofpress time.

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