Mount Sinai Draws Heat At First Public Hearing Over Plans to Shut Beth Israel in July

The Mount Sinai hospital chain held its first public hearing on its plans to shut down Beth Israel as angry local residents and politicians blasted the decision. Lower Manhattan will be without a major hospital once the facility on E. 16th is closed, critics said. Mount Sinai says it is under utilized and is slated to lose $150 million this year.

| 04 Dec 2023 | 01:40

Mount Sinai held its first town hall on its controversial decision unveiled in October to shutter Beth Israel Hospital come July.

The event held at Baruch College could only hold 175 people and was packed with angry elected officials and residents at the November 28 hearing. It marked the first time the public had a chance to voice its concerns since Mount Sinai announced in October it will shutter the facility on E. 16th St. and First Ave. on July 12, 2024.

Council members Carlina Rivera and Keith Powers, N.Y. Assembly Member Harvey Epstein and Borough President Mark Levine were among those to show support for keeping the facility open.

Rivera and Powers both questioned if Mt. Sinai had asked the NYS Department of Health (DOH) for a state designation, which gives certain hospitals a higher reimbursement rate because they serve a certain level of Medicaid/care patients. MSBI was just below the threshold, according to DOH.

For Epstein, the closure of Mt. Sinai hits home as his daughter was born there. “This community relies on this facility and the lack of transparency here is really troubling,” Epstein said.

Borough President Levine said forcing people to go to another hospital will cause a major problem for downtown residents of Manhattan.“There’s just no substitute for a stand-alone hospital,” Levine said at the town hall. “Beth Israel is also notable in that it serves lower income people in downtown. For people who live in NYCHA developments and that are on Medicare this really is a critical hospital.”

Throughout the evening residents screamed “bullshit and you are lying” at the Mt. Sinai representatives and some even accused them of having plans to turn the hospital into luxury housing.

“How much are lawyers paying you to get away with this?” said Richard Torres, a 50-year resident of the community. However, it was Jennifer Rodriguez, a contract administrator for 1199 at Beth Israel, who really riled up the attendees. She was angry and said most hospital employees did not even know about the town hall.

“I feel bad for the community. Why did you choose this small room? A lot of people outside got turned away.”

“This is personal,” said Barbara Caporale said at the forum at Baruch College, according to Gothamist. “My kid was born here. My father has a stroke, a heart attack, he comes in, he gets service, he goes to the ICU. You need a hospital where families can come and visit.”

The hospital says Beth Israel is under utilized and is slated to lose $150 million this year alone. But some of the shut downs will start happening before its official closure in July 2024. By the middle of this month, Beth Israel officials said the hospital wants to stop taking elective cardiac catheterization and interventional radiology and to move inpatient elective surgeries to other Mount Sinai facilities next month.

It is part of a disheartening trend among NYC hospitals. In the past 25 years, 41 New York hospitals have closed their inpatient services or been converted to outpatient centers.

“As we previously announced, after years of agonizing debate and analysis, we’ve made the difficult decision to begin closing the Mount Sinai Beth Israel (MSBI)16th Street Campus,” Loren Riegelhaupt, spokesman for Mt. Sinai said. “This decision was not made lightly, however, despite major investments from Mount Sinai, MSBI has already lost over $1 billion and is on track to lose an additional $150 million this year, putting the entire health system and our patients’ continued care at risk.”

The hospital said it will remain open with a smaller bed count as it works with regulators to gradually close the 16th Street campus at MSBI and continue to evaluate various options for a smaller hospital nearby. This decision comes after recent financial changes, including significant increases in labor and supply costs, and years of decreasing inpatient census as care continues to move to outpatient and non-hospital settings.

Mount Sinai Beth Israel is a 799-bed teaching hospital in Manhattan. It is part of the Mount Sinai Health System, a nonprofit health system formed in September 2013 by the merger of Continuum Health Partners and Mount Sinai Medical Center, and an academic affiliate of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Elizabeth Sellman, president, and chief operating officer of Beth Israel and Mount Sinai Downtown told the attendees closing the hospital was not an easy decision to make.

“We really considered every possible option since our merger in 2013,” Sellman said. “At this point the financial losses are affecting our entire health system.”

Since 2012, MSBI’s Emergency Department visits and acute care discharges have decreased significantly. Emergency Department visits have decreased by 42.4 percent from 122,000 visits in 2012 to 70,252 visits in 2022. Acute care discharges have decreased by almost 73% from 36,665 acute care discharges in 2012 to 9,986 acute care discharges in 2022.

Mount Sinai currently operates over 20 downtown centers across 30 medical and surgical specialties, which will not be impacted by the closure. In addition, there are dozens of urgent care centers and two major hospitals less than a mile away from MSBI. The MSBI 16th Street hospital and Emergency Department will remain open through the duration of the closing process.

“There’s just no substitute for a stand-alone hospital.” Borough President Mark Levine