BY THE VILLAGE SUN | Updated Sept. 15, 5:20 p.m.: The Village Sun recently reported on persistent fears that Mount Sinai Health System is dismantling its historic New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, with plans to scatter its services to other sites.
Now, another, even bigger concern is looming following a news report today that Mount Sinai plans to shutter its Beth Israel campus, at 16th Street and First Avenue, due to mounting financial losses associated with the Gramercy health complex.
According to an article in Crain’s, “[Mount Sinai] leadership plans to initially reduce the hospital’s inpatient bed count, then operate with fewer beds as the campus ‘gradually’ closes, Mount Sinai spokeswoman Lucia Lee confirmed on Wednesday. She added that Mount Sinai made the decision because of mounting financial pressures and ‘years of agonizing debate and analysis.'”
For now, the hospital and its emergency department remain open.
(The Village Sun is not linking to the article because Crain’s uses a paywall for its content.)
“Despite massive investments and upgrades, in the past ten years MSBI [Mount Sinai Beth Israel] has sustained losses in excess of $1 billion,” Lee told the outlet. “Nevertheless, losses have escalated and MSBI is on track to lose an additional $150 million this year. Maintaining the status quo is no longer an option.”
Mount Sinai will reportedly offer unionized staff roles with the same titles and pay at other locations in the system.
Crain’s got onto the story after “reviewing text messages suggesting the closure was imminent.”
Mount Sinai Beth Israel is a 696-bed teaching hospital that includes an emergency department, cardiology services, an emergency psychiatric program, and adult and pediatric surgery, plus inpatient and outpatient programs for New Yorkers with substance-use disorders.
Beth Israel Hospital’s inpatient census has dropped to just 20 percent, according to Mount Sinai.
According to the hospital statement, the Gramercy campus closure will not impact other Downtown Beth Israel sites, including a new $140 million behavioral health center at the former Rivington House, at Rivington and Forsyth Streets on the Lower East Side, and other outpatient facilities.
Mount Sinai added that it has made “tens of millions in investment in our extensive outpatient and ambulatory footprint…including our newly renovated Mount Sinai Union Square and Blavatnik Family Chelsea Medical Center facilities.”
In addition to Mount Sinai Union Square, Mount Sinai Brooklyn also will not be affected, according to the statement.
A replacement mini-hospital could conceivably be in the works at some point — but it’s not a sure thing right now.
“The health system will evaluate options for opening a smaller hospital Downtown and will engage with the community and elected officials on next steps,” the spokesperson told Crain’s.
A day after The Village Sun published this article, a Mount Sinai spokesperson provided the newspaper with the same statement it had given to Crain’s about its plan to gradually phase out Beth Israel Hospital.
“This decision comes after recent financial changes, including significant increases in labor and supply costs, and years of decreasing inpatient census as care continues to move to outpatient and non-hospital settings,” the statement additionally said, in part. “While we will never abandon the Downtown community, continuing to keep the MSBI 16th St. hospital open would jeopardize the mission of the Mount Sinai Health System.”
The health system previously planned to close the Gramercy hospital and build a smaller, 70-bed, mini-hospital on the same block as its New York Eye and Ear Infirmary. However, faced with strong community pushback, in turn, followed by the pandemic, which highlighted the potential need for hospital beds, the health system shelved that plan in June 2021.
Regarding the current news, the Mount Sinai spokesperson did not provide “a definitive timeline” for when the inpatient bed reduction at Beth Israel would begin or when the closure would be complete.
Indeed, the statement only said that Mount Sinai would close Beth Israel “in the coming years.”
“We will continue to engage with community leaders and elected officials on the next steps,” the health system said.
According to Crain’s, Mount Sinai “also did not provide details on how the closure will impact Beth Israel’s contentious pending merger with the NYEEI, or if the system will try to meet the stipulations State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald laid out for the project in June.”
Mount Sinai says the Beth Israel-NYEEI merger is a way to maintain the infirmary’s inpatient census and thus preserve its services and funding. But physicians, patients and advocates fear Mount Sinai wants to sell off the property to a developer, which, among other things, would leave patients having to scramble around to various locations for dispersed services that they currently receive all at one facility.
However, the health system’s statement noted, “Specialty eye and ear services will continue to be provided by NYEE and will not be impacted by any closure on the 16th Street campus.”