By Paula Katinas
Bay Ridge — The future of health care in the Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst area is unclear, according to Community Board 10 Chair Joanne Seminara, who said it's important for leaders in the three neighborhoods to start planning now.
In her report to her fellow board members at their March 19 meeting, Seminara talked about recent discussions she and Bill Guarinello, her counterpart in Community Board 11 in Bensonhurst, have been having about the types of medical facilities available to residents and what kind of medical care residents will need in the future.
"We clearly need a strategic, multi-faceted plan for discerning community needs so we can advocate and build support for concrete goals," Seminara told board members.
The discussions have included participation from elected officials like state Sen. Marty Golden and Assemblyman Peter Abbate, as well as representatives from the three medical facilities serving the area — Lutheran Medical Center, Maimonides Medical Center, and the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate at Bay Ridge, a non-emergency clinic located at the site of the former Victory Memorial Hospital at 699 92nd St.
Victory Memorial Hospital was closed by the New York State Department of Health in 2010, leaving Bay Ridge without an emergency room.
Seminara hinted that community officials are torn between wanting to push for a new emergency room to be built in Bay Ridge and their concern that a new ER would take patients — and business — away from Lutheran and Maimonides.
"One question is: What should we, as a community, advocate for the Victory Memorial Hospital site to complement and not reduce funding to Lutheran Medical Center and Maimonides Medical Center?" she said, referring to the two hospitals closest to Bay Ridge.
Lutheran Medical Center is located at 150 55th St. in Sunset Park. Maimonides Medical Center is located in Borough Park, at 4802 10th Ave.
"The discussion prompted questions about how we can continue to expand emergency services and/or even develop a new medical center without compromising the efficient use and development, in terms of health and sophistication of service, at two of our premiere, local, developed hospitals, Lutheran Medical Center and Maimonides Medical Center — both of which are fighting to hang onto even more scarce dollars to expand what are known as 'telemetry beds,' or beds that accommodate placement in highly sophisticated, high-risk units," Seminara said.
Telemetry beds are the types of beds seen in intensive care units in hospitals.
The federal Affordable Care Act, the health care reform bill signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010, will bring big changes to the way medical care is delivered and paid for, Seminara said.
To prepare for the changes, New York State has already started looking into redesigning how Medicaid, the health care program for low-income people, will work.
"We must look at our needs in light of the changes experienced by the Medicaid redesign formulas and the federal Affordable Care Act, with its focus on prevention, and community-based comprehensive service that can hopefully reduce emergency room visits," Seminara said
Right now, there are lots of questions, according to Seminara. The question of how the community can prepare for a widespread health crisis such as a flu epidemic or a citywide emergency has yet to be answered, she said.
"And yet another (question): How can we accommodate the clear need for hospice services, which are effectively and compassionately provided at Calvary Hospital, now sited at Lutheran Medical Center?" she asked.
Seminara said the discussions about the future of health care will continue.