OPINION: A smaller hospital: better than none

March 3, 2014 By Raanan Geberer Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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As readers of this paper know by now, after various legal machinations that are too complex to repeat here, SUNY has gone back to the drawing board and issued a new RFP for Long Island College Hospital. The new RFP process gives extra points to bidders whose plans include an actual full-service hospital, although it isn’t mandatory. It is understood that there also would be some residential development included, most likely condos.

The probable scale of the condo development would mean a smaller hospital than the one there presently. But a small hospital doesn’t necessarily mean a bad one. A generation ago, there were many small hospitals throughout the five boroughs. While most of them have long since gone to hospital heaven, there are two surviving ones in the same Brooklyn neighborhood.

One is New York Community Hospital at East 25th Street and Kings Highway. The other is Beth Israel Brooklyn at East 32nd Street and Kings Highway. New York Community has 134 beds, a staff of about 150 physicians, and provides a variety of out-patient and in-patient services as well as a fully functioning emergency room. Beth Israel Brooklyn (Beth Israel Kings Highway until recently) has 212 beds, a functioning emergency room and a wide variety of services, although less information is available about it on the web.

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Both of them occupy low-rise buildings, with Beth Israel Brooklyn somewhat larger than New York Community. Indeed, if you saw New York Community from a distance and didn’t know it was a hospital, you might think it was a library or the local YMHA.

When I lived in the area and had frequent asthma attacks, I went to both emergency rooms, although I went much more frequently to New York Community (at that time just Community Hospital). Although I didn’t need to be admitted most of the time, the service I received was good, and my breathing was usually back to normal within an hour or two. I don’t recall seeing a doctor at New York Community, but the respiratory therapist who helped me was first-rate.

All in all, my experience at these institutions was certainly better than that at one much larger hospital, Coney Island Hospital. At Coney, they kept me overnight in a hallway, attached to an IV, because they couldn’t find me a room.

Most importantly, I was able to walk to the emergency room at New York Community Hospital, although with difficulty. If neither New York Community nor Beth Israel Brooklyn were in the neighborhood, I would have had to call an ambulance to take me to Maimonides or another hospital. And my condition could have gotten much worse in the time that I would have spent waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

At that time, both of these hospitals were independent. Now, they are connected with larger hospitals  — New York Presbyterian in the case of New York Community, Beth Israel in the case of Beth Israel Brooklyn. Patients who go there and need more specialized care than is available at these facilities can be referred to their larger parent hospitals.

 In summary, there could be worse fates than living near a small hospital. I may be alive today thanks to the staffers at New York Community and Beth Israel Brooklyn who were there to help me.

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