A4J commenced a lawsuit on behalf of the Progressive Action of Lower Manhattan and two residents of downtown Manhattan challenging the closing of units of Mt. Sinai Beth Israel Hospital (“Beth Israel”). The proceeding is brought pursuant to the State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”) and Article 78 of the CPLR (alleging violations of the Certificate of Need process) to compel the N.Y. State Department of Health to reverse its decision to approve the partial closure of Beth Israel, to require the commencement of appropriate review under SEQRA and the N.Y. State Public Health Law, to enjoin Beth Israel from engaging in further action to close its hospital, and to compel the reopening of those portions of Beth Israel which have been closed.
Mount Sinai Medical Center merged with Continuum Health Partners in September of 2013, creating a large hospital network stretching across Manhattan. Through the merger, Beth Israel Medical Center (located at First Avenue and 16th Street in Lower Manhattan), Roosevelt Hospital on West 59th Street, St. Luke’s Hospital in Morningside Heights and the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary in the East Village all joined the Mount Sinai Health System. Mount Sinai officials touted the merger as having the potential to improve quality of care, but unions representing the hospital workers immediately voiced concerns about downsizing, closing or relocation of some services within the sprawling network.
Less than three years later, in May of 2016, the Mount Sinai system announced plans to close the 800-bed Mount Sinai Beth Israel (“MSBI”) Medical Center. Officials said the facility would be replaced with a new 70-bed Mount Sinai Downtown Beth Israel Hospital and emergency room and with a network of outpatient centers and doctors’ offices. Mount Sinai officials insist that the new 70-bed hospital will be sufficient to serve the needs of Lower Manhattan residents. However, community residents and public officials representing them have voiced concerns. “The downsizing of Beth Israel hospital to a 70-bed medical/surgical center may be inadequate and will cause significant harm to health care services in Lower Manhattan,” the Village Independent Democrats stated in a resolution adopted in December 2017.
In the last decade, Lower Manhattan has witnessed a significant decrease in medical services, specifically hospital beds, specialty clinics and emergency centers attached to full service hospital. Residents had already been affected by the sudden closure of St. Vincent’s Hospital in 2010. Needs assessments performed after that closure demonstrated that residents of Lower Manhattan were relying on Beth Israel for a significant portion of their care. In fact, Beth Israel’s inpatient admissions increased 16 percent after the closure of St. Vincent’s and its emergency room visits increased 12 percent, with Beth Israel absorbing over half of St. Vincent’s emergency room patients.
In addressing the Department of Health’s Certificate of Need (CON) review requirements, Mount Sinai officials have packaged the closing of hospital services at the existing Beth Israel facility into multiple narrowly-framed applications that have been deemed to meet the current CON qualifications for what is called “limited review” by DOH staff. This is instead of “full review,” which would be conducted at public meetings. Mount Sinai has filed, received approval for and completed six separate limited review applications to decertify or close services at Beth Israel or to add services at its satellite locations.
See the plaintiffs’ Verified Amended Petition and Memorandum of Law below.