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New York City’s public hospital system would have to scramble to “pick up any slack” if Manhattan’s Mt. Sinai Beth Israel medical center moves ahead with a plan to shut down this summer, Mayor Adams warned Monday.
Beth Israel, a 799-bed private hospital on the corner of First Ave. and E. 16th St. that first opened in 1889, filed notice last year that it plans to close permanently this July. That has led to an outcry from community leaders in downtown Manhattan, who say the closure would deprive them of a critical local health care resource.
Asked about the matter during a town hall event in Manhattan on Monday night, Adams said he was caught off guard by last year’s announcement.
“We were not briefed on this at all. This is, as you know, this is under state control,” he said.
He also said he will put together a “coalition of state and city lawmakers” to oppose the plan on the grounds that it would be difficult for the city’s public Health + Hospitals system to service New Yorkers who rely on Beth Israel. H + H/Bellevue is among the closest medical centers to treat the general public, located about a mile from the beleaguered site.
“That is not one of our H + H hospitals, but we are going to have to pick up any slack that comes from not having a hospital in this community,” he said. “This community needs a hospital, and we’re going to do everything we can to support either keeping that hospital open or using our voice and advocacy.”
Whether Beth Israel will ultimately shut down remains a bit up in the air.
Though Beth Israel’s leaders said last year the hospital can’t keep operating because it’s losing too much money each year, the state Department of Health ordered it last month to cease the process of winding down, alleging the system had started doing so without first getting proper approval.
A Stuy Town resident who asked the question that prompted Adams’ response at Monday’s town hall event said a friend of his recently had a heart attack while playing soccer.
“If it wasn’t for Beth Israel being so close by, I don’t know if he’ll still be alive,” he told the mayor. “So, I think I speak on behalf of Stuy Town, but also the East Side community in the concerns that we have with the closure of the hospital.”
Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine was among those at the town hall expressing concern, saying such a closure would be devastating to the surrounding neighborhood.
“It would really be a big blow downtown where we’ve lost many, many hospital beds,” Levine said.