With the closure of the emergency room here, Cornwall residents
would need to drive about 15 minutes, or more, to the
CORNWALL – Despite efforts a few years ago to keep the Cornwall campus emergency department open, the Board of Trustees has authorized the closure of that department effective October 1. Persons in need of emergency room care will have the continued availability of the Newburgh facilities.
Shutting down the Cornwall ER, which saw an average of fewer than two patients per hour last year, will save the hospital system $3.2 million. Continued operation of the Cornwall ER threatens the viability of the entire health system, which serves some 250,000 patients annually.
State Assemblyman James Skoufis (D, Woodbury), who spearheaded the effort to keep the ER open, is incensed by the announcement to close.
The assemblyman said the hospital’s contention it will save millions is bogus.
“It’s a false argument to try to scare people into accepting this plan, saying if you don’t accept this plan, then something terrible is going to happen,” he said.
Skoufis said the closure of the ER will not go down without a fight.
SLCH official said the Cornwall campus has been transformed into a “robust” outpatients center with cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation, outpatient radiology and laboratory services, ambulatory surgery, radiation oncology, an infusion center, sleep medicine, physical therapy, a balance center and pain management. The campus also includes a medical office building with primary care physicians.
Under the direction of delivery system redesign, the state is requiring hospitals to reduce unnecessary hospitalizations and emergency department visits by 25 percent. SLCH has begun to see that shift, and the board recognizes that utilization of the Cornwall ER has continued on a steady decline for seven consecutive years, hospital officials said.
“As healthcare evolves, we much look at all programs and services to ensure that we are best meeting the needs of our patients in a way that maintains our commitment to quality and is financially sustainable for the entire health system,” said Board Chairwoman Michelle Rider. “SLCH is committed to continue providing essential health care services to our community.”
Hospital Interim President Joan Cusack-McGuirk said providing the highest quality of care “in the most appropriate setting is a top priority” of the hospital. “As healthcare delivery continues to evolve, the manner in which we provide such care must also change “The repurposing of the Cornwall campus is a prime example of that,” Cusack-McGuirk said.
Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus said he was “disappointed” with the announced ER closure. He noted that in the past, the state has come to the financial aid of other area hospitals – Ellenville, Margaretville and Sidney.
“When Catskill Regional Medical Center was significantly challenged, state officials stepped in and helped develop a strong relationship between the facility and Orange Regional Medical Center,” Neuhaus said. “I encourage state officials to work with the state health department to delivery emergency aid to St. Luke’s, as has been done elsewhere to save hospital services.”
The campaign of Skoufis’ opponent in the November election, Republican Colin Schmitt, said he, too, opposes the closing of the emergency room.
“It serves as our local ER and has treated many family, friends and neighbors in critical times,” said a statement released by Schmitt’s campaign. “We must ensure it stays open. The last time our community went through this, the opportunity was missed to secure stronger guarantees and a long-term commitment to keep the ER open.”