A Hospital’s Slow Death: As Beth Israel Shrinks, Patient Care Suffers

Once a full-service hospital that performed heart surgery and treated a range of stroke patients, Beth Israel on Manhattan’s East Side offers more limited services these days. The number of employees has dwindled from 1,800 to about 1,300 in less than a year. Some floors are nearly empty of patients.

That is because for years Beth Israel’s parent hospital system, Mount Sinai, has been trying to close it, saying it loses too much money. The plan has met resistance from community members, a judge and the state Health Department, and has led to a drawn-out fight to keep the hospital from closing.

The delay has created its own problems.

With services reduced, and employees leaving for more secure jobs at other hospitals, the hospital’s ability to care for patients has suffered, according to interviews with medical staff and reports by hospital inspectors. The result has been dangerous, at times even deadly, according to patient advocates.

This January, George Faust, a 76-year-old retired printer in Greenwich Village, awoke from a nap in his Eames chair, tried to stand up and fell. He broke a few ribs and was transported by ambulance to Beth Israel, one of the few remaining hospitals serving downtown Manhattan.

At the emergency room on Jan. 16, he was found to have a collapsed lung as well as broken ribs, his wife, Kathleen Faust, said in a phone interview. Beth Israel staff members said the facility was too understaffed to care for a “trauma patient,” according to an affidavit Ms. Faust filed.

He ended up at two other hospitals, and eventually died after blood pooled in his lungs and abdomen, according to Ms. Faust.

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