You Must be Kidding

Have you ever heard something so ridiculous, you know immediately it cannot possibly, in anything resembling a logical universe, be true? Well, we’ve got a good one for you.

Robert Levine, past-CEO of the recently-closed Peninsula Hospital, is suing. Suing the closed-down, battered, beaten-down institution he helped run into oblivion. Suing, despite the fact that he left his job as CEO in September – to take another job at a different hospital, that has not yet been shut down.

Levine ran Peninsula into the ground. It is absolutely impossible that the CEO of this failing hospital did not contribute – likely largely – to its downslide. And yet he’d like damages for severance pay and termination of contract. $1.2 million in damages, to be exact.

Not only does this man have the gall to sue, he has the gall to request severance. Severance, from a hospital that just closed its doors, laid-off more than 800 employees and left a large portion of Queens without a nearby hospital.

Severance payments are intended as a way to give an ex-employee a minute to get back on his feet. It’s meant to be a company’s way of saying, “Okay, you didn’t work out here, but no hard feelings, this money should help tide you over until you get a new job.”

Levine has a new job. He does not need the money. He does not need the time to get back on his feet.

In fact, from the looks of it, Levine’s been firmly on his feet the entire time. Perhaps a little too firmly. From all appearances, Levine’s feet ran Peninsula right into the ground.

Especially when you consider the types of violations Peninsula was cited for. Storing blood improperly. Not providing new hires with adequate training. Not having any sort of backup system in place for
lab information stored solely on computers. Not storing medical waste securely. These are not honest mistakes. These are corner-cutting, cheap ways to shave pennies off where they are most needed.

As if crippling Peninsula Hospital wasn’t enough, within two months of leaving as CEO, Levine had a new job, as the COO of Flushing Hospital Medical Center. Hopefully Flushing knows what it’s gotten itself into – leave Levine unattended, and you’ll be left with no hospital and a big ole lawsuit.

The greed of this man is just astounding. It’s hard to even imagine how one musters the nerve to run one hospital so far into inadequacy that the state forced it to close (conveniently a few months after you’ve left), then take a job running another hospital (because, clearly, he’s shown such talent for the position), and then go that last step – or last straw – and file suit against the hospital you destroyed.

Personally, it just seems like a bad idea to draw attention to such bad behavior with a lawsuit.

In times like these, when there are people – lots of people – struggling just to get by, it’s simply disgusting that one man could show such insensitive, insatiable greed.

Oh, and just so we don’t forget, there is still that teensy little problem of getting emergency medical care to those who need it. Everyone’s appalled at the lack of emergency medical care in Queens, but, so far, no one has any ideas.

Hospital after hospital closes in Queens. Within the last five years, Queens has lost Mary Immaculate Hospital, St. Johns Queens Hospital, Parkway Hospital and, most recently, Peninsula Hospital. Four hospitals is a lot. This is not a gap in service that will just magically fill itself.

Unfortunately, whether the closures are because of a lack of funding or sloppy management, the same people still suffer. The people the hospitals are meant to care for. No matter how much we wish otherwise, there will always be accidents. People will always get hurt, or sick. We will always need hospitals.

The danger is that while we will always need hospitals, we will also always have to deal with unethical, greedy people, who feel no shame at sucking the life from the places that need it most. The worst part is, no one seems able to see a solution – not when there’s money to be made.


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