Healthcare and the Silent War Against Community Hospitals

Last Thursday, I had to visit our beautiful Putnam Hospital Center's ER. That in itself is not unusual, given the the different health issues that I have accumulated along with the years in my life. I was struck by how quiet it was. Ten years ago, I would have had to be triaged first, then, according to how serious my problem  was, I would have to wait a period of time to see a doctor. This day, there was no waiting. This hospital has been thoroughly updated and is clean and modern with a friendly, caring staff who will do whatever it takes to make the patient comfortable. After being thoroughly checked out, I was released and told to follow up with my doctor within 48 hours.
 The next day, I went in to see him. After he checked me over, we sat and talked for a while, as we do whenever I see him. He has been my doctor for over thirty years, and I am one of his first patients.. We have become friends, as well as doctor patient. The talked turned to the beautiful hospital and how impressed I am with it. The doctor said to me, that it was a beautiful place, indeed, but it might not be around for much longer. The hospital is in financial trouble. I wondered how this can be, being it is the only hospital in the county and probably the best hospital around for 50 miles or more. He explained it was due to these 'Medical Groups' that have sprung up over the area. One or two in particular, are costing the hospital a lot of money. Mount Kisco Medical Group is one of them. They even have a floor in the hospital complex all to itself. He said that the hospital makes money, not just from admitting patients, but from specialized departments like Radiology and Physical Therapy. Up until the past ten years, the doctors in the are would routinely refer their patients to the hospital physical therapy departments for rehab, and to their Radiology Department for X-rays, CT scans and MRI's. Ambulatory Surgery was done in the hospital's surgical unit, and follow up was done by the surgeon. Things have begun to change radically, and not for the better. 
 Mount Kisco Medical Group started out, as the name suggests, in Mount Kisco with a group of doctors of different specialties. Not very big in the beginning, it is now a large corporation. They sign doctors to long term, airtight contracts, and make them work as if they were in a factory. My doctor likes to call it the Home Depot of Medicine, and he doesn't mean it in a good way. They have expanded so much that they have buildings across the area. They also have their own radiology department, and an 'Urgent Care' clinic, all in one building. The specialty of their doctors cover the gamut of the Medical Profession. I, myself, have two doctors with them. When i first started seeing these doctors, they were with smaller specialty groups. I have talked to them since they moved over, and the impression that I get is that they regret having signed the contract with Mount Kisco, but cannot get out of the contracts that they signed. I should also tell you that Mount Kisco Medical Group's corporate HQ address is not in Mount Kisco any longer. Hell, it's not even in New York.... it's in Pennsylvania! It seems that they do not have to pay NY Corporate taxes if they list the HQ in Pennsylvania. This is no longer a patient oriented group of doctors. No, indeed, it has become a full fledged corporation who's main concern is getting as much money to the corporation as possible. They siphon off patients from the community hospitals for routine testing, and in doing so, they have put the hospital in financial jeopardy. Somers Orthopedic is another group that is doing the same thing. They have opened their own pain management and physical therapy departments. They even have a chiropractor within their practice. 
  The political influence of these corporations cannot be ignored, either. Mount Kisco Medical Group's CEO is married to none other than Nan Hayworth, who was our Congresswoman for one term and is gearing up to run again. This, to me, is conflict of interest. 
  What I want to get out there is that you should do a bit of research before you have tests run. Community Hospitals are exactly that: COMMUNITY HOSPITALS. We need them. If we let these corporate vultures suck them dry and force them to close, where will we be able to go when we need hospitalization? Will we have to go to some hospital run by a mega-corporation? I can't begin to tell you the danger of letting it all come down to this. Please, use the hospital departments that are there for you. Putnam, for example, has so much to offer. They have a state of the art Birthing Center. They are also a top notch Cancer Hospital, one of the best. My aunt was just treated there, as a matter of fact. I don't like being admitted to the hospital, but If it's necessary, I would rather be admitted to Putnam Hospital Center. Every room is airy and state of the art.
 We must keep these vultures from killing the hospitals.  It's up to us.
 John Zaffino Kent Lakes, NY
 April 14, 2014


  1. It's the changing times, John. Northern Westchester Hospital, Sound Shore, both are in the process of being taken over by Montefiore. Medical groups such as MKMG and others are becoming their own hospitals within larger medical environments. Sadly, it's no surprise that Putnam Hospital Center is in dire straits and word from the inside points much blame to Health Quest who took over PHC, Vassar Brothers and Northern Dutchess Hospital.

    You are so right; at one time the ER was hopping, especially on Friday evenings when the facility was overrun with individuals seeking treatment, most with no medical insurance and, of course, the hospital could not turn them away. Local residents then turned to many Urgent Care facilities for their emergency issues unless, of course, those issues were extremely severe and necessitated possible hospitalization.

    Financially, all of the above has indeed impacted hospitals such as PHC, especially the billing practices in place by Health Quest. As you might recall, my husband cut his hand just before Christmas, requiring six stitches; we went to PHC's ER where we sat for 8 hours. The staff was wonderful, one is a friend, who spent much time attending to my hubby's wound doctor was available to perform the suturing, thus the lengthy wait.

    Since that time, we have been receiving statements from PHC along with correspondence from Oxford regarding the exorbitant charges submitted for this ER visit....$38,000.00, in fact. Oxford paid a reasonable amount to the hospital but...Health Quest continues to bill our insurance for the remaining $33,000.00. According to the Oxford hierarchy, PHC (along with other hospitals) are under investigation for trumped-up treatment/hospitalization charges submitted for reimbursement. How are such figures arrived at? It's almost surreal yet, given the financial downturn that PHC has taken, one can't blame them for trying to capitalize on those seeking treatment.

    In defense of PHC, they started out as a small, community hospital years ago; I remember being so impressed when we built our home and had to take one of our children to the ER for an injury. But, as I stated earlier, times have changed. The hospital felt the need to grow, to mature well beyond a little country hospital and, with all of this came these massive medical groups who have taken over. And, of course, it's the health care providers who can make it very difficult for patients to seek treatment outside of their chosen medical group, especially with all the turmoil currently in place involving healthcare reform.

    Where it all will end is an educated guess. For people like you and me, we have to remember that, sadly, it’s always business….not personal.

  2. I used to come up to Lake Carmel in the Summer, 50 Years ago, when Putnam Community Hospital was built. We would come and stay in our cars for three or four days, and from time to time, needed the services of the ER. It has always been a good hospital... even when it was a little down trodden a couple of decades back. The staff was outstanding. The nurses, the best. Caring and dedicated. I've had to stay there several times over the years. My daughter was born there. I cannot sit still and do nothing, or say nothing, while this is going on. We cannot, as a community, as a people, let greed overtake common sense and good care.
    I called Ms. Hayworth out on her conflict of interest. Needless to say, she was not happy to hear from me. She actually had no defense, other than denial, to conflict of interest. I can only hope that the pendulum swings the other way, as it inevitably does, sooner, rather than later. We have reached a sad state of affairs in this country. I am eternally hopeful that common sense and good will will on day prevail. Thank, Patty.


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