How To Fix Hospitals Here, Discussed by Panel

By Raanan Geberer
Although the panelists at the discussion on “Solving Brooklyn’s Hospital Crisis” basically agreed with Stephen Berger’s diagnosis that the current hospital system doesn’t work, they had varying opinions about the right prescription for it.
The discussion, sponsored by Crain’s New York Business, included four panelists. They were the aforementioned Stephen Berger, chairman of Odyssey Investment Partners and head of the state Health Department’s recent Brooklyn Task Force; Dr. Linda Brady, president and CEO of Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center; Pamela Brier, president and CEO of Maimonides Medical Center; and Kenneth Raske, president of the Greater New York Hospital Association.
The discussion was held at New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge. To get inside, one had to pass a picket line of protesters from several unions, Occupy Wall Street and several community organizations who warned against cutbacks. 
The state’s Health Department, said Berger, commissioned the Brooklyn Task Force because in the metropolitan area, Brooklyn has the greatest number of hospitals that are on the brink of insolvency, such as Brookdale, Interfaith and several others. Cutbacks in Medicare and Medicaid payments have driven these hospitals — most of them in low-income, inner-city areas — close to the edge.
Calling the city’s hospital system a “big-box network,” he said it no longer works. He called for the eventual replacement of this “provider-based system” with a “client-based system.” He has called for strengthening the borough’s secondary healthcare system — clinics, private physicians, labs, nutritionists — so that patients only go to the hospital when they need to. 
One of the commission’s proposals that seemed to draw the most flak was the idea of bringing in private-sector, for-profit companies to help manage hospitals — something that is a reality in most other states. 
Raske said involving the private sector in healthcare is “not new,” naming several partnerships on the clinic and laboratory level. However, he said, if private companies are brought in for a larger role, “these would probably be publicly traded, investor-owned companies.” They would almost certainly choose to manage hospitals that are already doing well, leaving hospitals in low-income areas out in the cold again.
Berger clarified that although his task force believes the hospital system is “over-bedded” and wants to reduce the number of beds, this will not result in a shutdown of any one hospital. It will only be done in cooperation with the hospitals themselves, he said.
January 18, 2012 - 1:32pm


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