Lawsuit claims Mount Sinai cut services to sell real estate

A group of community members has filed a lawsuit against New York City-based Mount Sinai Health System, alleging that the health system deliberately moved services and staff from Mount Sinai Beth Israel and the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary to sell its assets and real estate.

The lawsuit, obtained by Becker's and filed in the New York County Supreme Court, is led by the Community Coalition to Save Beth Israel Hospital and alleges that the planned shutdown of New York City-based Mount Sinai Beth Israel goes against New York's public health law, health department rules, the state constitution, human rights laws of the state and city, and the state Environmental Quality Review Act.

"Under New York law, DOH must approve any hospital closure plan, or any plan to reduce hospital services. DOH has not approved MSHS's plans. Instead, the DOH issued a cease and desist letter on Dec. 21, 2023, ordering MSHS not to further reduce any services at MSBI (services had begun to be reduced starting in November 2023.)," the lawsuit reads. "Nevertheless, MSHS has continued to reduce services." 

The lawsuit also alleges that Mount Sinai Beth Israel and New York Eye and Ear Infirmary were financially healthy until Mount Sinai took over in 2013 by merging with Continuum Health Partners. Despite promising better care, Mount Sinai closed profitable units at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, such as labor and delivery and neonatal intensive care, and almost all ENT services at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, according to the suit. 

The lawsuit suggests that these actions were part of a plan to sell assets and real estate.

"In short, Mount Sinai Beth Israel has been intentionally creating ongoing, dangerous conditions at its hospital in an effort to bolster its ability to sell off the hospital's real estate portfolio," the lawsuit reads. 

The coalition, which consists of residents, community board representatives, nonprofits and elected officials from lower Manhattan, wants the court to force the health department to reject the application to close Mount Sinai Beth Israel and prevent Mount Sinai from closing more services until the department makes a decision about the closure.

The lawsuit names the New York State Department of Health and its commissioner, along with the health system and Mount Sinai Beth Israel, as defendants. 

Mount Sinai announced the decision to close Beth Israel in September 2023.

"While we cannot comment on pending litigation, Mount Sinai firmly believes that we have followed the law in this process," a spokesperson for the health system told Becker's. "Ultimately, the health and safety of our patients has been — and will remain — our top priority and the north star guiding all of our decisions."

The spokesperson continued stating that it understands and appreciates the concerns that have been raised, but that the stark reality facing Mount Sinai Beth Israel is immutable. 

"Hospital closures across the nation are a result of significant challenges in healthcare finance and changes in how care is delivered. A hospital with a 70-year old infrastructure, built in a different era for a different type of care model simply cannot compete with the dynamic needs of modern healthcare, which relies increasingly on outpatient and specialty services. As a result, the hospital is operating at roughly 20% capacity, the infrastructure is crumbling, and it lost an estimated $150 million in 2023 and more than $1 billion since 2013. Any failure to address these losses poses a real threat to the overall Mount Sinai Health System."

The spokesperson added that Mount Sinai is working with regulators and local leaders to "ensure all patients receive the care they need at the appropriate facility, whether that be at Mount Sinai or an alternate care center."

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