Move to close Kingston Hospital draws community ire

After much debate and discussion, HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley is moving toward closing Kingston Hospital and move all hospital services to the campus of neighboring Benedictine Hospital within 18 months, the group announced on July 9.

An HAHV press release states that the new merged hospital will be nonsectarian, and that the number of beds will be reduced.

According to the release, the merged hospital at the Benedictine campus will not have "limitations on reproductive services" -- a phrase that means the hospital will provide abortions, which are currently offered by the independently-run Foxhall Ambulatory Surgery Center, created in a compromise during the 2008 merger of Kingston and Benedictine.

David Lundquist, president and CEO, and Cynthia Lowe, chair of the HAHV board of directors, announced Monday that the Benedictine campus was chosen to remain open based on recommendations by doctors, members of the community and traffic concerns, according to an article in the Daily Freeman.

The Freeman reports that HAHV officials hope that the Kingston campus will find a useful purpose:

Lundquist and Lowe said that it is hoped the closed Kingston campus, including the Foxhall Ambulatory Surgery Center, will be either leased or sold to be used as some sort of medical or or community service provider.

The Times Herald-Record reports that many Kingston residents are angry about the decision:

[Kingston mayor Shayne] Gallo said service cuts would severely hurt the hospital's clientele, many of which have limited economic means. Nearly three-quarters of babies born at Kingston Hospital belong to Medicaid patients, he said.

The consolidation could leave as many as 600 people without a job, Gallo said. The hospitals had a combined 1,980 full- and part-time employees in 2010, according to tax records.

Erin Dermody of Kingston also bemoaned the move.

"Neither (hospital) should be closed," she said. "The only thing that's better at Benedictine is parking."

Dermody's fondness for Kingston Hospital was easy to understand. She was walking down Broadway with her five-month-old daughter Cara Hassine, who was born in Kingston's new maternity ward.

The New York State Nurse's Association is calling the move a result of "poor management decisions," the Mid-Hudson News reports:

“This is the price, unfortunately, that the community has to pay because now we are without a valuable resource in the community,” [spokesman Mark] Genovese said on Tuesday. “Anytime that you cut down the healthcare facilities that are available in your community, anytime you downscale you are taking away care.”

In a letter sent to The Daily Freeman, Kingston resident Caroline Matzen said she questioned the decision to close Kingston Hospital and was concerned with the amount of lost beds the consolidated hospital campus would hold.

“How does [HealthAlliance] propose to cram all patients into one facility that today holds only 150 patients?” Matzen said in her letter. “And what will happen with the hospital parts recently renovated (the emergency room) or built (the ambulatory surgical center)?”

A final plan, or Certificate of Need, is expected to be submitted to New York State in the fall – who will have the final say in the plan to combine the two hospitals.