New York, NY – After months of speculation, officials at a lower Manhattan hospital founded more than a century ago by Orthodox Jews has announced plans to close its doors and reopen at a smaller facility located several blocks away.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital has been struggling financially, typically filling just more than half of its 825 beds. Mount Sinai plans to close the hospital in four years and to open a 70 bed facility in 2020 that will also house an emergency room. Mount Sinai will also expand and upgrade facilities at several other Manhattan locations.
Originally established in 1889 to serve the immigrant Jewish population that called the Lower East Side home, Beth Israel is equipped with Shabbos elevators and was long favored by members of the Jewish community. Located at 16th Street and 1st Avenue, the hospital was acquired by the Mount Sinai Health System in 2013, but in a changing health care system where many are flocking to outpatient facilities, it is one of many large hospitals to find itself floundering financially.
Dr. Kevin Davis, president and chief executive officer of the Mount Sinai Health System, said that Beth Israel currently has an outstanding debt of $200 million and estimated the property’s value at $600 million. Dr. John Rowe, a former executive at Mount Sinai said that the hospital had high hopes for being able to serve patients when it acquired the facility.
“They weren’t trying to buy the building, they were trying to buy the business,” said Rowe, who noted that Mount Sinai will still retain a large presence in Manhattan.
According to the New York Times, Beth Israel’s closure is a disappointment to Mayor de Blasio, who campaigned vigorously against the closure of city hospitals during his 2013 run for mayor. de Blasio was among those who was arrested for protesting the closure of Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn in 2013 and he stressed the importance of ensuring adequate medical coverage for city dwellers.
“While it is good to see that layoffs of unionized staff will be avoided and some important investments made, Mount Sinai must work with the community to ensure that the inpatient and emergency care needs of local residents are met,” said de Blasio.
As rumors of a possible closure at Mount Sinai swirled, many seemed worried about a potential shutdown and its effect on locals, particularly since nearby St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village closed its doors in 2010, two years after Cabrini Medical Center in Gramercy Park was shut down. A statement released by a group of lawmakers including local assemblymen, council members, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, State Senator Brad Holyman and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer several weeks ago warned, “Any downsizing or closure at Beth Israel threatens to further strain an already overburdened network of health care providers in Manhattan, reduce health care options and curtail services in the immediate neighborhood and eliminate jobs.”
Those concerns, at least from an employment perspective, appear to be well founded. While 4,000 union employees at Beth Israel will either keep their jobs or be retrained for new positions, between 600 and 700 are expected to lose their jobs. Hospital officials said they would offer retraining and other job services to those who are expected to be displaced.
Mount Sinai appear confident that the move will be a change for the better and Davis touted the new facility as an innovative model of care that will keep patients out of larger hospitals.
“Mount Sinai Downtown is a dramatic next step that will enable us to improve access and increase quality by providing care for residents of downtown Manhattan where they live and work.”