Talk of closing one of Kingston's two hospitals began in November, HealthAlliance officials say (with video highlights)
KINGSTON, N.Y. — The possibility of closing one of Kingston’s two hospitals, announced early this month, first was discussed among HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley officials last November, company officials said on Wednesday.
Now, “preliminary plans” for what steps will be taken are expected to be announced in the next 90 days, according to HealthAlliance President and Chief Executive Officer David Lundquist and the company’s board chairwoman, Cynthia Lowe.
Video highlights from Wednesday's question-and-answer session can be viewed here and also at the bottom of this story. Related content: Full coverage.
They also said any closure probably would take more than a year to complete.
Lundquist, Lowe and Health Alliance Chief Strategist Joshua Ratner spent about an hour with the Freeman’s editorial board on Wednesday, answering the newspaper’s questions and some submitted by member of the public. (The meeting was livestreamed on the Freeman’s website, though technical problems made it impossible to see and hear some portions.)
Lundquist and Lowe emphasized no decision about closing either Kingston or Benedictine hospital has been made and that the upcoming preliminary plans will provide “a better idea” of what happens next.
The HealthAlliance officials said they are not certain that one of the hospitals will close or whether any services currently available at the facilities will be eliminated.
Lundquist said, as he has several times over the past two weeks, that a “cumulative” range of factors — the downturn in the economy, doctors starting up competing services, decreases in federal and state aid, and Ulster County not being in included in a higher-reimbursement Metropolitan Statistical Area, or MSA — is what prompted HealthAlliance officials to consider closing one of the two facilities.
HealthAlliance has said that if Ulster County was in the same MSA as neighboring Dutchess and Orange counties, the hospitals would receive $10 million more in government reimbursements per year and there would be no talk of a closure.
“This is not just a cyclical blip,” Lundquist said on Wednesday. “There are industry shifts.” Continued...
Ratner added that the hospitals are experiencing an occupancy rate of just 70 percent.
HealthAlliance’s goal, Lundquist and Lowe said, is to create a healthcare system in Ulster County that is better, but perhaps smaller.
Lowe said that the possibility of closing one of the hospitals first was broached in earnest during a November “retreat” that was held in a Benedictine Hospital auditorium.
She said the announcement of a possible closing that was made by HealthAlliance on May 4 was the result of a Freeman reporter’s inquiry.
Before that, Lowe said, the idea was not as substantially fleshed out.
Lundquist and Lowe said if HealthAlliance does decide to shut down a hospital, the closure process probably will take more than a year.
The state Health Department has said it would need to approve any plan for a hospital closure.
The two hospitals, which have been operated jointly since 2008 under a state mandate handed down in 2006, have a total of 1,500 full-time and 300 part-time employees. HealthAlliance officials have not said how many of those jobs might be lost if a hospital closes, though Lundquist said on Wednesday that he has had several meetings with employees lately.
The two hospitals had a combined loss of $10 million for the period of 2008 to 2011.
Video highlights from Wednesday's question-and-answer session: Continued...
On executive salaries:
On Health Quest:
On the nature of the affiliation:
On monies, given, and recap:
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