By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
BROOKLYN – Reports of job slashing and extensive consolidation at University Hospital of Brooklyn’s three campuses – the main University Hospital campus at SUNY Downstate, the former Long Island College Hospital (LICH) campus and the former Victory Memorial campus in Bay Ridge – are premature, says Debra Carey, CEO of University Hospital.
Nevertheless, she said, the hospital system, like others, is having “financial challenges,” although she wouldn’t put a dollar value on it, saying this would be premature.
Importantly, she stressed that the hospital is committed to maintaining services at all three campuses.
Earlier this year, the state’s “Medicaid Redesign Team: Brooklyn Task Force” headed by investment banker Steven Berger recommended moving SUNY-Downstate’s inpatient beds to LICH. Dr. John LaRosa, president of SUNY Downstate (which includes the hospitals as well as the medical school), told WNYC at the time, “Mr. Berger says, 'Move all your inpatient beds to LICH.' But doing that would defeat the purpose of acquiring LICH.”
Similarly, Berger had recommended that University Hospital not expand the Bay Ridge campus and put in an emergency room. But Carey told the Eagle she is strongly committed to Bay Ridge. “We have urgent care, an ambulatory center, more and more physicians, and we believe there should be a full-fledged emergency department.”
On the subject of financial restructuring, Carey continued, “We’re all trying to adapt and adjust to the new rules of reimbursement as a result of Medicaid and Medicare reform and the new national healthcare bill, and we are having our own financial challenges. There’s also been some shift away from admissions, some volume decreases in in-patient services, and revenue has gone down at all of our hospitals,” she said.
“That’s what the restructuring is all about – we’re trying to make certain expenses in line with revenue,” she said.
While the University Hospital system will hire an outside consulting firm, one has not yet been chosen, and interviewing is still in process.
When the hospital merged with LICH last year, the deal was widely hailed in the community as having saved the hospital after the former parent body, Continuum Health Services, had attempted to close several departments. Asked whether LICH still had serious financial problems, Carey said, “We did achieve our major goal – to keep LICH open.” The system also achieved the goal of integrating LICH’s facilities into the medical school’s teaching regimen for new doctors, nurses and other health professionals.
On the subject of consolidating services, she said that “while we do have some services that are at three locations, I hesitate to call them redundant because we are committed to maintaining services at all three locations.”
As far as layoffs are concerned, she said that the audit “may indicate that we have to adjust the staffing levels.” If this happens, she says, it will be done with safety in mind (because medical services are involved), and the hospital will “try to minimize reductions by having people reassigned” within the system.