Since St. Vincent's Hospital shuttered in 2010, following a series of increasing layoffs, there have been just a handful of hospitals serving Lower Manhattan, the largest being Mount Sinai Beth Israel, with 856 beds. But now, it appears that Beth Israel may be on a similar path as the former West Village hospital: according to recent reports, the hospital is about to announce that it's downsizing, possibly ahead of a closure or restructuring.
The New York State Nurses Association told union members last week that the hospital is planning to announce downsizing this week or next. In an email obtained by Crain's New York Business, officials wrote that "their plan is to move units and individuals throughout the system," and that NYSNA would be working with 1199SEIU Healthcare Workers East, which represents workers at the hospital, to protect their "job security, mobility and parity of benefits."
A spokesperson for 1199SEIU, which represents over 4,000 workers at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, told us that "1199SEIU is continuing to monitor the situation with Mount Sinai Beth Israel, and will do everything in our power to advocate for healthcare services and jobs for the community. As acute care hospitals continue to face increasing challenges, we must ensure that every New Yorker has local access to quality healthcare."
If true, a downsizing at Beth Israel wouldn't be completely out of the blue: Mount Sinai has been in talks to downsize the hospital since the fall, when executives met with members of Mayor de Blasio's administration to discuss rebuilding the hospital according to a plan that could reduce the number of beds. At the time, Mount Sinai President and CEO Ken Davis told Politico New York that "we are in the midst of trying to figure out how to rebuild the hospital...We know care is moving more to an ambulatory space and we know there will have to be some diminution of inpatient beds."
De Blasio was openly critical of the fact that so many hospitals closed when Michael Bloomberg was mayor, and was arrested in 2013, during his mayoral campaign, for protesting the closing of Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn.
"The Mayor is committed to ensuring communities have the health care facilities they need and preventing the sudden closure of hospitals," a spokesperson for the Mayor's Office said. "The health care industry is changing rapidly and we must be prepared to protect patients and healthcare workers alike."
Mount Sinai merged with Continuum Health Partners in 2013, at which point Beth Israel Medical Center was renamed Mount Sinai Beth Israel. In 2014, the hospital reportedly lost $90.7 million. Following that 2014 loss, Standard and Poor's revised its rating of Mount Sinai to negative, noting that "Mount Sinai Hospitals Group is facing significant transition issues as MSH absorbs the former Continuum facilities into its structure."
Beth Israel and its affiliates reportedly lost $85.6 million between January and September 2015, exceeding a budgeted $75.6 million loss.
The potential downsizing at Beth Israel was first reported by The Villager, which cited frantic calls from Beth Israel employees who said that the hospital would close "sooner rather than later," with a soon-to-be-announced downsizing marking the first step toward a total closure.
But Mount Sinai denied that Beth Israel would be closing, and said in an email to employees that "we are working on a plan which will enhance existing services and develop new facilities in the Mount Sinai Beth Israel community. In the meantime, there will be no disruption in any of our patient care services."
In a statement, a Mount Sinai spokesperson said that "Mount Sinai is 100% committed to serving the community and offering the highest level of patient care. We are working on a plan which will enhance existing services and develop new facilities in the Beth Israel community....In the meantime, there will be no disruption in any of our patient care services."
It's not clear whether those new facilities will be outpatient, though one of the nurses who spoke to The Villager said that the hospital is planning to keep operating its Phillips Ambulatory Care Center, on Union Square East. Another source told The Villager that the Bernstein Pavilion, which offers mental health services, will remain open, as well.
All reports indicate that Mount Sinai will announce in the coming weeks what, exactly, is planned for Beth Israel, be it a restructuring or downsizing. Meanwhile, elected officials are desperately seeking more information: City Councilmember Dan Gardonick said that "we are deeply concerned about the possibility of a significant restructuring at Beth Israel. This hospital is integral to our community, and we deserve much more clarity from Mt. Sinai Beth Israel about their plans."
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said that "if true, such a closure would be a major loss to the downtown community. But it's my understanding that long-approved site plans for the hospital's location are restricted to a 'large-scale community facility' and can't be changed without a ULURP process. So I'm hopeful that a significant health care function there can be preserved —and that's what I'll fight for."