Today’s news:

Montefiore taking over Westchester Square Medical Center

Bronx Times

Montefiore Medical Center was the winning bidder for the assets of New York Westchester Square Medical Center – using state and federal funds to buy the beleaguered community hospital.

Montefiore used $15.3 million out of $20 million received from the state last summer to buy the hospital at a Jan. 24 auction approved by the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.

The $20 million was part of $72.9 million in New York State Health Care Efficiency and Afford ability Law (HEAL) grants, partially federally funded, to 10 city hospitals and nursing homes announced by Governor Cuomo on June 15, 2012 through the state Department of Health and the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York.

WSMC had been unable to obtain financing or certain grants because it has been Chapter 11 bankruptcy for nearly seven years. The state DOH did not respond to questions about the HEAL grant awarded to Montefiore.

Monte outbid

A group of real estate investors, Westchester Square Medical Center Properties, bid $15.75 million at the auction, but their bid was not accepted, said their spokesman Michael Fragin.

He said the group had planned to lease back the hospital’s facilities to the current administration.

Fragin said that the courts are not required to explain why a higher bid might not be accepted, and there are no means of recourse at this point.

Community reassured

The hospital will now be renamed Montefiore Westchester Square.

Dr. Steven Safyer, president and chief executive officer of Montefiore, said the plan is to have a full-service emergency department, an ambulatory surgery center and, over time, comprehensive primary and specialty care services.

He said Montefiore is committed to preserving as many of the 586 jobs there as possible and will begin working closely with NYWSMC’s labor unions to identify qualified staff eligible for hire by Montefiore.

He noted that about half of WSMC’s doctors currently have privileges at Montefiore; others have the option of applying for privileges. Closing is expected to take place in March.

Local reaction

Assemblyman Michael Benedetto said he had mixed feelings about the closure, having been born in the hospital. But he said that a worse fate – having a large vacant building in the Zerega community – had been avoided.

“It has been part of our community for such a long time, and that is why we fought so long and hard to keep it open,” said Benedetto. “To now see that we can no longer keep it as the hospital we knew and loved and that was such an important part of the community - it makes me kind of sad.”

On the other hand, Benedetto said he was glad to see NYWSMC carry on as a medical facility, if not a hospital.

Local community activist Lou Rocco said he believes Montefiore should sit down with the community to go over any planned changes, and wants further engagement.

Representatives from senior management at Montefiore were present at a meeting with Community Board 10’s Health and Human Services Committee on Wed., Jan. 23, where they went over what was happening.

Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at procchio@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3393

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