Doctors at Glen Cove Hospital met Thursday night to discuss the impact on the community of the decision by administrators to eliminate inpatient beds and turn the hospital into an ambulatory care facility.
The closed-door meeting of about 100 doctors at the Glen Cove Mansion and Conference Center came after the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System announced a week and a half ago it would get rid of the hospital's inpatient beds in January.
Dr. Beth Silverstein, 32, a neurologist at the hospital, said that while "ambulatory centers are the wave of the future," Glen Cove needs a hospital.
"This town has a large population and it's going to affect not only us but the community as well," she said.
Lawrence Ostroff, a podiatrist at the hospital, agreed. "From a business standpoint it makes sense, but from a community standpoint it doesn't," he said.
The plan has provoked an outcry from Glen Cove Mayor Ralph Suozzi, who briefly attended last night's meeting. He has started an online petition and is distributing paper petitions at churches and restaurants asking for Michael Dowling, North Shore-LIJ's chief executive, to reconsider the plan. As of Thursday night the online petition had 2,430 electronic signatures.
North Shore-LIJ officials said the decision to eliminate the beds stems from declining volume. The hospital is certified for 265 beds but the daily average number of patients has been 90, the health system said.
Yesterday, the hospital's medical director, Dr. Barbara Barnett, and executive director, Susan Kwiatek, sent a letter to affiliated doctors saying they "will do everything possible to ensure that North Shore-LIJ continues to be you and your patients' provider of choice in the community."
The letter urged doctors to "reach out to us directly about your questions and concerns" and call "our newly established physician hotline."
Terry Lynam, a North Shore-LIJ spokesman, said about 700 doctors are credentialed at the hospital. About 90 percent of them are "voluntary," that is, they have privileges at the hospital but do not work for the health system; the other 10 percent are employed by North Shore-LIJ.
The health system said the ambulatory care facility would include a 24-hour emergency room, ambulatory surgery, an outpatient cancer treatment center, medical offices and a community health center.
North Shore-LIJ said it would find jobs for the hospital's 1,200 employees, some of whom will stay at Glen Cove, including those in the emergency department and family practice center. Some programs will be moved -- along with their staff -- including orthopedic surgery and rehabilitation, brain injury rehabilitation, and psychiatry.
Suozzi said that Dowling has agreed to meet with him and Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) in several weeks.
The mayor said news of the hospital's plans came as a jolt.
"I realize a lot of this has to do with money; I know there's business realities going on but if it's such a positive change it could have been communicated a lot differently," he said. "You're taking a great facility that has served this community for 87 years and basically turning it into a medical station, a MASH unit -- it's a pass-through to another facility."
Suozzi said he feared the loss of the beds could hurt the city economically if employees, patients and doctors go elsewhere and stop patronizing businesses in Glen Cove.