Brooklyn MRT Work Group Delivers Report to Commissioner Shah

Yesterday, the Health Systems Redesign: Brooklyn Work Group, a work group of the New York State Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT), issued its final report to DOH Commissioner Shah. This work group was charged with assessing the strengths and weaknesses of Brooklyn hospitals and their future viability. Although this work group was convened in June as part of the ongoing MRT process, it is unique in that it was required to report directly to the Commissioner rather than the full MRT panel. Commissioner Shah is expected to review the report’s recommendations and work with local legislators and hospital administrators to determine the best course of action. The work group’s report is an 80 plus page analysis of the troubles facing the hospitals in Brooklyn but many of its recommendations could have statewide impact.

The report primarily focused on six institutions- Brookdale Hospital Medical Center, Brooklyn Hospital Center, Interfaith Medical Center, Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center, Long Island College Hospital, and Wycoff Heights Medical Center- that are either in danger of imminent financial collapse or would benefit from merger with another institution. To assist these struggling institutions, the hospitals would be eligible for financial support if new patient-centered care delivery models and other reforms are implemented. This financial support could take the form of increased Medicaid and Medicare rates, debt restructuring assistance from the state Dormitory Authority, and the latest round of HEAL funding available from the Department of Health.

The report makes additional recommendations that could prove controversial.  The report calls for the Department of Health to be given the power by the Legislature to replace healthcare facility board members who have failed in their financial and fiduciary obligations to the institution. The report also recommends repealing a longstanding prohibition in New York that prevents for-profit entities from owning hospitals.  Not surprisingly these proposals drew a quick response from the downstate hospital trade association Greater New York Hospital Association. GNYHA issued a communication to its membership yesterday that it would try to work to limit the scope of any new powers conferred on the Department of Health.

Consumer advocates are worried about the report’s recommendations and the possibility of the sudden closure or merger of any hospital in Brooklyn.  In a borough where two in five residents receive Medicaid and many residents lack a primary care physician, advocates believe Brooklyn’s hospitals serve as a critical safety net for vulnerable patients.

The work group’s report is available here.

-Jaime Venditti