June 19, 2013

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No firm date for detailed hospital merger plan, says Lundquist

Lundquist: "We stand ready"

KINGSTON – The shape of things to come, for Kingston's former Benedictine Hospital campus, is still up in the air.

Lack of specific details highlighted the speech given by Health Alliance President David Lundquist on Wednesday morning, at the Ulster County Chamber of Commerce breakfast.

"The State of New York is unique in its ability to make things take longer," Lundquist told the business community. "We stand ready, working arm-in arm with the Department of Health – but there's no single shot financial solution, and that’s the challenge we have in working with public and private funding sources in putting that plan together.”

Lundquist told the business people they are doing that daily. “We're hopeful that we'll get that done soon, but I can't give you a date," Lundquist said.

Kingston Hospital merged with Benedictine Hospital five years ago, under pressure from the Berger Commission to reduce hospital bed over-capacity statewide. At the time, closing Kingston Hospital would have resulted in the remaining Catholic hospital maintaining a policy against abortion services.

In 2012, Health Alliance announced it will be forced to close down one of Kingston's two hospitals, due to fiscal shortfalls. Benedictine was chosen as the survivor, because of parking, expansion, and related issues. Benedictine will be renamed, and turned into a non-secular institution.

Kingston Hospital, now known as the "Broadway Campus," remains open, but is expected to be turned into a medical college. The Broadway emergency room will eventually move back to Benedictine, currently referred to as the "Mary's Avenue Campus."

"There are parties that have expressed serious interest in re-purposing the building," Lundquist indicated of the extra hospital on Broadway. "Obviously those discussions will accelerate dramatically, once we have a plan," he noted.

"If you know of services we currently provide, you can expect those same services going forward, with very few exceptions. The final plan will be determined by completing our funding package," Lundquist added. "Until we get that final plan, we don't know what that actually looks like.”

One of the causes of Health Alliance's money problems comes from the Metropolitan Statistical Area wage index, which sets government Medicare hospital compensation rates lower for Ulster County than surrounding areas – costing the community $10 million per year. The federal policy was set arbitrarily in 2003.

"You put that over a 10 year period, it doesn't take a calculator to determine the amount of money that is available to our surrounding counties, and to those that are only five miles away," Lundquist said. "[MSA wage index] has been addressed many times, in many ways; I can assure you that we are putting our foot on the accelerator with that. It's wrong, and it must be fixed," he said.


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