Kingston/Benedictine woes won't affect Margaretville Hospital

By Jay Braman Jr.
As Health Alliance of the Hudson Valley officials mull over the very real possibility of closing one of their two hospitals in Kingston, they made it clear last week that those financial problems will not have any effect on services offered at Margaretville Hospital or at Mountainside Residential Care Center.

The Health Alliance of the Hudson Valley owns and operates both facilities in Margaretville as well as the Kingston and Benedictine hospitals in Kingston.

Last month Health Alliance Officials created fear in the region when they announced that it was no longer feasible to keep both hospitals in Kingston open. Many in the Margaretville area quickly wondered what now would be in store locally.

On Wednesday evening at a community meeting at Mountainside, Health Alliance Chief Executive Officer David Lundquist said that, for the time being, the Margaretville Campus is holding its own financially, but quickly added that it would not be used as a resource to shore up the financially strapped facilities in Kingston.

In short, as Health Alliance looks at options for helping solve the Kingston dilemma there is no option that includes reducing services in Margaretville.

Margaretville Hospital Board of Directors Chairman Carey Wagner said that this has been a concern for everyone lately.

Lundquist said that while it is likely that one Kingston hospital would close, such a decision would not made until next month. Whatever decision is made, he added, would then take several months to implement.

Kingston, with 160 beds, and Benedictine, with 220 beds, are located within a mile of each other, and Lundquist said both are operating at a 70 percent occupancy rate. That, he warned, cannot be sustained.

While he admitted that a closure is still being considered, he said the main goal is to provide quality health care.

“We streamline, we trim down….we are going to be better and stronger when we come out of this,” he said. “The last thing we want to do is board up a hospital.”

Heather Brighton, chair of the Margaretville Health Foundation, a fundraising organization, suggested that a solution might not be easy to find. She noted that if both hospitals are now 70 percent full, keeping only open would not provide enough beds to serve the population.

Meanwhile, Margaretville administration reports that times are difficult, but they are staying afloat. The hospital, which has only 15 beds, usually has about half of those occupied, said Executive Director Sandra Horan. Mountainside, which has 82 beds, is currently 100 percent occupied.
Mountainside Executive Director Phillip Mehl was to the point about his facility’s health status. “Are we in danger of closing our doors tomorrow? Not even close,” he said.