State Health Dept. Report Blasts Mt. Sinai’s Grinding Closure of Beth Israel

The findings were made as part of a “Statement of Deficiencies” report, and appear to give weight to many of the allegations contained in a Feb. lawsuit against Mt. Sinai. The hospital corporation has been given until April 1 to submit a “corrective plan” for the deficiencies.

| 01 Apr 2024 | 02:17

As Mt. Sinai remains intent on closing Beth Israel despite mounting public and political opposition, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) has released a report faulting the ongoing shutdown.

Formally known as a “Statement of Deficiencies,” the Mar. 21 report states that Mt. Sinai has violated a cease-and-desist order issued to stop the closure, not to mention run afoul of the state’s “Public Health Law.” A letter issued to Mt. Sinai Beth Israel President Elizabeth Sellman noted that a “Statement of Corrections” was due on April 1, and should include “the procedure for implementing the acceptable plan of correction for each deficiency cited.”

The report lends weight to a sizable Feb. 7 petition filed by community groups and Beth Israel patients in New York County Supreme Court, which alleged that Mt. Sinai–and, ironically, the NYS DOH–were either committing or ignoring such violations.

The DOH’s report elaborates that Mt. Sinai violated part of the Public Health Law by not “ensuring sufficient staffing of general hospital personnel, including registered nurses,” in accordance with Beth Israel’s “Clinical Staffing Plan.”

Mt. Sinai also “failed to” comply with a December cease-and-desist order, the DOH said, by not ensuring “there were no changes in bed capacity and services” at Beth Israel. This required “written approval of the facility’s closure plan by DOH,” which was not granted, the agency ruled.

The report builds on what Arthur Schwartz, a plaintiff’s attorney involved in the February petition, told Straus News that month; “I had [Beth Israel] nurses crying on the phone,” he claimed, after they had reportedly been threatened with retaliatory firings for complaining about bed closures.

Some of the bed closures were identified by the DOH during a Jan. 25 tour, and include: ICU beds being decreased from a 24-bed unit to a 16-bed unit, a 32-bed medical telemetry bed being closed, and a 30-bed medical surgical unit being closed.

The DOH report further lays out how such closures have resulted in serious impediments to care for some patients. On Jan. 1, one Beth Israel patient needed a “stat MRI of the cervical and thoracic spine,” which was called for by a physician at 9:51 p.m. First however, there were discussions about “recalling” a technician to the hospital due to “concerns for resource management.” The patient reportedly didn’t receive the MRI until 10:15 a.m. the next day, “12 hours after it was ordered.”

On Jan. 22, one patient was diagnosed with septic shock and pneumonia after being brought to Beth Israel’s Emergency Department, the report says. However, he was transferred to another hospital because an ICU bed was not available.

The DOH also interviewed an unidentified Beth Israel staff member who said that some of the hospital’s attending physicians, specifically those specializing in neurointerventional radiology, “work for the system.” As the hospital’s closure got underway at the end of 2023, this meant that patients with Large Vessel Occlusion (LVO)–a common cause of stroke–were ordered not to come to Beth Israel.

Instead, “the patient would be transferred to another hospital in the system for treatment,” the report says. The DOH found that one such patient was transferred to Mount Sinai West after “no one from [the stroke team] came” to treat them initially.

Reached for comment, a spokesperson for Mt. Sinai said that “we are reviewing the NYS Department of Health (DOH) survey and plan a very detailed and robust response to the state’s allegations.” They added that they believed keeping open a “dilapidated” Beth Israel was “not sustainable,” and that “nothing about today’s allegations changes these facts.”

The initial reason Mt. Sinai provided for closing the hospital– which it acquired in 2013–was that it has been apparently losing around $100 million a year, or a total of $1 billion in a decade. The petitioners have also pointed out, however, that Beth Israel is not uniquely unprofitable compared to other Manhattan facilities in Mt. Sinai’s portfolio. Instead, they believe that the hospital corporation wants to see the E. 16th St. hospital’s underlying land utilized for real estate development.

Local political leaders have slammed the closure, since it would leave 400,000 Manhattan residents living south of 23rd St. with only one general hospital: a branch of NewYork-Presbyterian.

The DOH did not return comment as of press time.