Long waits, overcrowding result from Queens hospital closings; a harbinger of St. Vincent's fallout?

Hospitals in Manhattan worried about the impact of closing hospitals like St. Vincent's need only look to neighboring borough Queens to see the effect hospital closures can have on a community. Three hospital closures in two years--Parkway Hospital (251 beds) in 2008 and the simultaneous closings of St. John's Hospital and Mary Immaculate Hospital (422 combined beds) in February 2009--have resulted in 17-hour wait times at one facility, and patients receiving emergency care in a hospital café at a second, reports the Wall Street Journal

"If you want to think you're in a war-torn third-world country, just go to the ER at New York Hospital Queens on a Friday afternoon, Dr. Paul Aaronson, president of the Queens County Medical Society, told the Journal

While Queens already was in bad shape before the closings--with the lowest ratio of beds to population of any of the five boroughs according to Greater New York Hospital Association president Kenneth Raske--the closings created a new level of misery for patients and caregivers alike. In 2008, the American Hospital Association reported that Queens hospitals had only 1.7 beds for every 1,000 patients, down 32.5 percent after the closings took place. 

Emil Silberman, associate director of the Emergency Medicine Department at Jamaica Hospital, said that his facility, which was made to treat 60,000 patients annually, currently treats more than double that number--135,000 per year. As such, nurses like Larisa Kolyuyeva see as many as 28 patients in a 12-hour shift, more than double the average workload prior to the closings, the newspaper reports. 

And such numbers aren't likely to improve, with emergency room visits expected to increase under reform, according to a survey from the American College of Emergency Physicians. Becker's Hospital Review lists ER closures as one of six reasons why overcrowding is likely to continue. 

To learn more:
- check out this Wall Street Journal article
- here's the Becker's piece