Preserving Jobs and Healthcare Options at St. Francis Hosptial‏

I received the letter below from Donald F. Murphy who ran St. Francis Hospital until 2000.  I'm sharing it, with permission, because it provides an important perspective not present in the media coverage of the St. Francis bankruptcy. 
-Kieran Lalor

Letter from Donald F. Murphy, CEO of St. Francis Hospital from 1976-2000

Living in this community for over 37 years and fortunate to have worked as CEO of Saint Francis Hospital (SFH) for 24 years until 2000, I feel compelled to comment on the current state of hospital affairs. I write this without the knowledge, prompting or approval of anyone connected with any hospital. These are my private thoughts…

Between 1990 and 2000, SFH and Vassar Brother Hospital (VBH)  developed a joint venture to improve the clinical efficacy of the two campuses with the added incentive of financial neutrality. A Judge ordered it dissolved citing antitrust violations. Recently SFH suffered a financial calamity which led to bankruptcy filing and is now in the hands of the court. As the Journal reports, there are two major interested parties to take over SFH and all its services…HealthQuest (HQ) and Westchester Medical Center (WMC). 

If the court awards SFH to HQ, my speculation is that the outcome will be to close all Medical/surgical services at the SFH site and relocate to VBH, Northern Dutchess or Putnam Hospitals. Under Health Department pressure, the Behavioral Services (Psychiatric and Addiction) will remain open. According to my ’back of the envelope” calculations at least a thousand SFH employees will lose their jobs.

Allow me to hypothesize what HQ and VBH may be planning. This could be an economically attractive albeit heartless plan:

- Issue numerous pink slips.
- Move trauma to VBH early on and soon after close ER at SFH totally – divert ambulances!
- Close all patient floors and admitting office …"call VBH for admission”.
- Relocate the best medical equipment.
- Rent space or sell the empty buildings.

I think you get the picture.

Here is the sad irony…if a new company moved into Poughkeepsie hiring 1000 people, the Governor and many elected officials would be welcoming and celebrating this great economic boost to the county. However, nearly 1000 SFH employees are poised to be laid off, the largest single loss of jobs since IBM decline, and yet we have not heard a “peep” from our elected officials. I must assume they do not perceive what is likely coming. 

Finally, what is in this for HQ?
A.    Money, over $100 million per year of new revenue will flow to HQ and their affiliate hospitals..
B.    Eliminating competition is huge…all patients belong to the HQ Monopoly (Goliath trumps David) .
C.    HQ wants to be THE tertiary hospital in the Hudson Valley. WMC would be a major competitor.

Again, speculation is the basis for this report. WMC will want to keep SFH open as a full service hospital and grow some new services. They will give physician’s a choice of working at SFH and provide a distinct choice for patients. Perhaps medical teaching programs located at WMC and in conjunction with NY Medical College may open at the SFH site. WMC will invest money in SFH and NOT close it! WMC will hope that new patients from Dutchess will choose WMC for specialized services as opposed to migrating to NYC hospitals.

The SFH family understands that the name will change and its religious heritage will be altered but the warm feeling one gets stepping on to its campus will hopefully be preserved.  As residents of Dutchess County …which picture looks better? One monolithic corporation owning four hospitals, multiple urgent care centers and the Heart Center or preserving choice of a hospital which provides a much different health care experience.

The opportunity for WMC and SFH to preserve a mission and to save hundreds of jobs is compelling.

Hopefully the Judge, State Health Department, our local elected officials and antitrust regulators will take notice of what is in the best interest of the residents of Dutchess County. So to our elected officials, the bankruptcy court, and our county residents, I say it is better for all to have health care CHOICES…SFH continuing its mission under the WMC banner would provide that!

Now is the time for all of us to be heard!