Workers at Peninsula Hospital in Far Rockaway, NY have won the fight to keep their hospital open. Many had written the institution off as yet another lost cause.
After months of negotiations and coming close to being permanently shuttered more than once, Peninsula is going to be managed by Brooklyn-based Revival Home Care, which will provide a financial life line, and work to improve the hospital’s dire financial condition.
“I don’t know who has the angel over their shoulder, but I’m grateful,” said dental department registrar Theresa Bentley, an 1199SEIU Delegate. “I’ve been fighting for this for a long time.”
The hospital’s story is a familiar one: the institution serves a majority of poor and uninsured patients and has a high number of emergency room visits. It’s choked with enormous and mounting debt. Peninsula owed $20 million to the 1199SEIU National Benefit Fund. In March, the unpaid debt triggered the suspension of Peninsula members’ health benefits.
When Peninsula’s truly desperate condition became clear, talks began between the hospital, the union and NY State officials. Those negotiations included the possibility of a merger with St. John’s Episcopal, The Rockaways’ other hospital. State officials were of the opinion that one hospital could safely serve the area, but in the end St. John’s wasn’t willing to take on the burden of Peninsula’s $60 million debt.
But 1199 healthcare workers remained fiercely determined to keep Peninsula open, even though many outside were sounding the death knell. Workers gave up vacation time to prevent layoffs and cuts to co-workers hours. They held rallies, pickets and lobby days. Workers spoke with reporters any chance they got.
“We all stood side by side,” says Bentley. “We came to work not knowing if we’d get a paycheck.”
“We were told that the writing was on the wall,” said RN Peggy Frontera, explaining their determination. “But we really felt that there had to be somebody out there who could help us.”
Numbers of proposals to save the hospital were discussed, including plans from several potential investor groups. The hospital’s board chose Revival Home Care for a management plan characterized as “aggressive.” Medisys, which had been managing Peninsula, finally cut ties with the institution in late August. Revival’s proposal includes providing $8 million in funding while the institution reorganizes in Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
“I’m really hoping that this organization can do what needs to be done to keep our little hospital going,” says Frontera. “There were so many people who gave so much. Everyone wants this to work and I hope we can move forward.”