By Laura Giner Bair
Area residents expressed feelings of disappointment, anger, and distrust this week after St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital announced that its emergency room in Cornwall would be closing in October. However, the closure is necessary for the hospital to comply with healthcare reforms and alleviate debt, according to St. Luke’s.
“It’s going to be a burden on us,” Michael Bigg, chief of the New Windsor Volunteer Ambulance Corps, said about the closing. Bigg is also vice president of the Cornwall Volunteer Ambulance Corps. “What are they going to close next?”
St. Luke’s outlined why they are closing the facility at a meeting held at Anthony’s Pier 9 on July 25. Closing the facility would help the hospital comply with national guidelines that require healthcare providers to coordinate efforts to prevent illness and harness costs, which were set in motion by the Affordable Care Act, and allay financial concerns. The state is requesting that hospitals scale back “unnecessary hospitalizations and emergency department visits by 25 percent,” a press release from St. Luke’s announcing the closure said.
By closing the emergency room, the hospital can maintain other services at the Cornwall campus, hospital executives said. Closing the Cornwall emergency room would allow St. Luke’s to accomplish its “goal of keeping the Cornwall campus alive,” Joan Cusack-McGuirk, the hospital’s interim president and chief executive officer, said.
The Cornwall facility includes outpatient radiology and laboratory services, a medical office building, radiation oncology, an infusion center, and other services and offices.
“We are in an era of healthcare reform… not react to illness, (but to) prevent illness and protect wellness,” Cusack-McGuirk said.
St. Luke’s is operating with a debt of $65 million incurred prior to 2009, Tom Gibney, senior vice president and chief financial officer at St. Luke’s, said. The hospital was denied two state grants this year totaling $50 million. St. Luke’s is reimbursed less than the full amount of care for approximately 77 percent of its patients, Gibney said. The hospital is reimbursed 88 cents to the dollar for Medicare patients, which make up nearly 50 percent of total patients. Reimbursement for Medicaid patients is 66 cents per dollar.
Mark Gerlach contributed to this report.
To read the full article see the Friday, July 29 editions of The Sentinel and Orange County Post.