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In closing Mount Vernon Hospital, Montefiore shows its courage to stay | Opinion

William M. Mooney Jr., Special to the USA TODAY NETWORK

By WCA October 23, 2019

Since Montefiore Health System announced plans to close Mount Vernon Hospital last week, replacing it with a new $41 million dollar healthcare complex on Sandford Boulevard that will modernize local care, there has been some negative reaction that claimsthe health system is turning its back on the community and leaving residents exposed without adequate medical services. In my opinion, just the opposite is true, and some Mount Vernon residents, politicians, and activists are taking a shortsighted view that is not based on facts or reality.

No one is served by misinformation.

Mount Vernon Hospital, once part of the Sound Shore System, was in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings in 2013 when Montefiore came in and took it over.  In effect, Montefiore rescued the hospital back then and gave it a fighting chance for 6 years.  But the economics of running a hospital have changed. Costs have gone up while government reimbursement rates for Medicaid and Medicare have stayed flat, making it a shaky business model these days. In fact, Mount Vernon Hospital lost $23 million last year.  Only 1 in 5 Mount Vernon residents actually choose to go there for inpatient care, and of the 121 licensed beds available, on average less than half are filled on any given day.

Because of these realities, nationwide trends in the healthcare industry show more and more hospitals like Mount Vernon evolving into more financially sustainable and flexible facilities with emergency and specialty care attached.

As the leader of a prominent business organization that understands a lot about the healthcare sector, I know that this type of care facility is the wave of the future. It’s healthy for our communities and for our economy.

This is what Montefiore is offering; they are willing to stay and usher in a new era of health care. The new facility may not be what you are used to, but it will provide for everything you need.  The existing hospital will remain open until the new facility is up and running. And of course, if you need to be hospitalized or there is a life-threatening medical emergency once it does close, Montefiore promises there will be a waiting ambulance at the newly proposed Emergency Department to take you to the best hospital for your needs, nearby.

Change is hard. We all have attachments to Mount Vernon Hospital, and it has been a stabilizing and steady presence in the center of town for more than 100 years.

But failure is harder. And the fact is, that without Montefiore’s intervention and willingness to stay in the community and build a new model, Mount Vernon Hospital would have closed a long time ago.

Sometimes it takes courage to make difficult decisions in difficult times. Montefiore had to make a tough call. But instead of criticizing Montefiore, we should stand behind them, and commend them for their continued investment in the community.

One needs to learn the facts, and stay open-minded about what successful local medical care in the future actually looks like.

Our physical and economic health depend on it.

William M. Mooney Jr. is the President and CEO of the Westchester County Association. 

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