Since Parkway Hospital in Forest Hills closed in 2008, its Chief Executive Officer Dr. Robert Aquino has been looking for ways to reopen the facility. Even with Aquino’s indictment last week, on charges he paid State Senator Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn) for political and business favors, one man believes Parkway can still easily be reopened and help Queens avoid a healthcare crisis.
John Krall, who runs a medical technology company, has been making stops at local community group meetings asking for support for the last several weeks.
With an investment firm Krall claims is ready to give $70 million to the project, the hospital could be reopened within four to six months without any federal, state or city tax dollars. The new facility would be named the Gloria D’Amico Medical Center.
Commercial Plus, an investment firm from Arizona and Illinois, is supporting the project, and Krall cryptically mentioned that a second firm is willing to join the fray.
“Queens can’t afford to lose any more beds,” Krall said. Even before Parkway, St. John’s and Mary Immaculate hospitals closed, Queens was facing a bed shortage, according to a study by the State Department of Health (DOH).
Located centrally in Queens, Krall said the hospital would help serve neighborhoods such as Woodhaven, Middle Village, Glendale and Maspeth where hospitals are scarce, and would help handle the overflow from overcrowded hospitals throughout Queens.
As an added benefit, the hospital’s location is ideal in the case of a medical emergency or terrorist attack, Krall said. Because the hospital is across from Flushing Meadow Park Lake, helicopters could be landed in the park and patients can be triaged and transported quickly within Queens.
The road to reopen the hospital has been rougher than Krall imagined. He wants to meet with Governor Andrew Cuomo and have a medical emergency declared so the hospital can open without going through a Certificate of Need (CON) process.
New hospitals are mandated by state law to go through the CON process, which determines the public need, financial feasibility and character reviews. Krall claims they could easily obtain the CON, but the lengthy process might entice Aquino to sell the building before the certificate is obtained.
Krall’s insistence on bypassing the process worries local politicians.
“We all know Queens is short 650 beds. I have always been a strong fighter for more beds and will continue to be, but the process must be done correctly,” said Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills). “Any group who is interested in expanding much needed hospital capacity in Queens must go through the New York State’s Certificate of Need process. The process can’t simply be circumvented through political pressure.”
Still, Krall complains that when he calls the DOH he gets “transferred to the basement” and he is receiving no help.
Another issue facing Krall is that Aquino still owns the hospital, and the two were working together in the venture. However, Krall said the initial plan was to have the former executive be the landlord. Now, Krall believes Aquino is willing to sell the building.
“The building might score you $8 million today. You’re just dumping a headache,” Krall said. “[Aquino] understands he can’t be involved.”
Krall said he is dumbfounded that he has not received more help.
“None of the local elected officials support this,” Krall said. He said State Senator Joe Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) has given him some support, but others like Koslowitz and Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) have not. “I understand it’s a political hot potato, but I’m not connected to Carl Kruger,” Krall said.
Meanwhile, Hevesi countered that Aquino’s legal troubles make following the CON process necessary.
“For years, my colleagues and I have been fighting to stop the loss of hospital beds in Queens and restore some of the losses of recent closures,” Hevesi said. “Mr. Krall and his partner, the now indicted Dr. Aquino, on the other hand have been trying to do an end-run around the normal … process, presumably to avoid the character assessment portion of that process.”
“Mr. Krall needs to stop trying to pin the blame for his lack of success on local leaders and instead explain his colossally bad judgment in choosing who he does business with,” he added.
Written By Eric Yun