Emergency One

27 Aug

Kingston’s HealthAlliance is in dire straits.  We have two hospitals.  We can support one.  Some are looking to the the Church for support on this front, but substantial help is not forthcoming.

There is no question that the Catholic Church does a great deal of good work.  But, as an internet commentator to today’s story in the Kingston Daily Freeman points out, if they really wanted to keep Benedictine open and operating as a Catholic hospital, it is well within their ability.  The problem here is that it is not within their will.  If it was, we would not be having this discussion.

KingstonBarn Photo

The Church has always had the choice to financially support Benedictine.  Before the Kingston HealthAlliance merger, the number of Religious Order employees working there had been reduced to 4 Sisters.  Since the merger, they have had ample warning and opportunity to bridge the budget gap.  Instead, they forced the Hospital Alliance to fund, build, and maintain a physically separate ambulatory surgery facility, all to salve the collective conscience of a religious organization.  Otherwise, why would Timothy Cardinal Dolan say, “We will continue to attempt, at least temporarily, to keep the Foxhall Ambulatory Surgery Center where it is presently located.”  Why would it matter where abortions are performed?  A better response would be, ‘we will do everything within our power to keep your Catholic institutions solvent, and allow the people of Kingston and Ulster County the Benedictine option if their consciences and choices lead them there”.

We now have yet another opportunity for the Church, by a large infusion of cash, to save two hospitals, a large number of jobs, and minister to a great number of people of all faiths that otherwise will go without.  They can, but, for whatever reason, will not.  This is a business decision taken by the Church authorities, they have plainly said so, and anti-abortion activists, at least those that follow the Church, might follow the lead of their officials and just accept that this newly secular institution will comply with the laws of New York and the United States of America.  The Church’s inaction has spoken louder than their words.

I am not anti-Catholic.  I attended Catholic schools from grade 1 through undergrad.  My degree is from a Catholic university.   My bride and I celebrated our beautiful wedding in a New Year’s Eve mass.  My children were baptized into the Church, and attended Religious Education.  From childhood through my adult life, I have been the grateful recipient of good and charitable works of institutions and people of the Catholic Church, Benedictine Hospital and its Sisters included.

Quentin Champ-Doran photo

I have read that some plan to go to Rhinebeck’s Northern Dutchess.  I have been there.  It’s fine.  But, it’s also at least 20 minutes away by car.  Vassar Brothers and Saint Francis in Poughkeepsie are even further.  Many people don’t have that luxury, either in time, economics, or transportation.  And, believe me, the wait time in Kingston’s emergency rooms are nothing at all when compared to Poughkeepsie.  But, those issues are red herrings, when we consider the stakes

Here we are, at the crossroads of what we want and what we do.  What are we going to do, now that the plan is set.  All indicators point to a done deal, no matter what we feel.  Both hospitals will officially close, and the Benedictine campus will reemerge as the only one in this part of the county.  But, we will still have choices.  Do we abandon Kingston, or do we use our remaining resouces?  Are we going to stop begging the Church to save us?  Can we stop blaming the HealthAlliance board for troubles we had before they came?  Or, do we start to make some positive changes ourselves?  Now is the time for creative thought and action, not wishing, whingeing, and whining.

The alternative to one secular hospital is no hospital at all.  Mayor Gallo’s bold attempts to lure a medical college to the closing Kingston Hospital will certainly turn to dust if there is no where to practice and learn.  Private practices will become even scarcer.  Nursing students will have fewer options, locals will lose their jobs, and this part of Ulster county will become far less attractive to potential residents.  Our home values will fall dramatically.

What if we throw our financial support behind whatever hospital results from this process?  We can still go to our doctors here.  They maintain privileges at the local hospital.  We can patronize the hospital here, the one that employs so many of our friends and neighbors.  If they get enough business, they can hire more.  We have the opportunity to vote with our dollars, and say that we want and need a viable, active, full-service hospital here.

Maybe in this case, people of Kingston and Ulster County can stop worrying about who performs what procedure and where, and start ministering to the people in this area, and try to make whatever hospital results from this process the best hospital we can manage.  How you participate is up to you.

KingstonBarn photo

-Andrew Champ-Doran.


Posted by on August 27, 2012 in Uncategorized


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4 responses to “Emergency One

  1. Mike Heany

    August 28, 2012 at 8:19 am


    In the end, Kingston will have one secular hospital. Outside outpatient facilities are growing and thus, less people will go to any hospital for those services, unless it is a question of means. Some people have already abandoned both of Kingston’s hospitals for Northern Dutchess and I believe that number will grow also. I wouldn’t say it is 20 minutes to Nothern Dutchess from Kingston….closer to 10-12 minutes…and I have driven there often. In a serious (life threatening) emergency, choice is gone but what percentage of emergencies are of that nature. The one Kingston hospital will have its share of customers. Quality of care, at this point, is an unknown and it will probably take a couple of years for a generalized opinion. Personally, I am concerned if my doctors will be affiliated with the one hospital. I firmly believe HealthAlliance should be dissolved.

    Almost everyone I know, including myself, that needed a significant surgery, was advised by their doctor to have said surgery in Albany, Westchester, or NYC. I do not see any change in this pattern with one Kingston hospital.

    If Mayor Gallo was to succeed in procuring a medical college for the vacant Kingston Hospital, the face of Kingston, not just Broadway, will change dramatically. Regardless of the chances for success, I applaud the Mayor for this bold, creative, and uplifting initiative…something that has been missing from this area for a long time.


    • KingstonBarn

      August 28, 2012 at 10:37 am


      I agree that some people have changed their habits since the merger. I will list off a few of my emergency room observations.
      1) My family and I have been to the Emergency rooms at Vassar Brothers, St. Francis, Northern Dutchess, Kingston, and Benedictine. We have also used The services of EmergencyOne here in Kingston.
      2) Because of several inaccurate diagnoses, we will avoid the EmergencyOne if at all possible. They see you quickly, but, to what end?
      3) Poughkeepsie Emergency Room wait times are abysmal. At Vassar, the staff seemed entirely inconvenienced by even life-threatening situations.
      4) Northern Dutchess is not equipped or staffed to handle a regular flow from this side of the river. They’ve got enough problems of their own, though their facility is shiny-new.
      5) We have had both good and bad experiences at Kingston Hospital, and only bad experiences (Very long wait times with little or no resolution) at Benedictine.
      6) Nobody I have ever met anywhere in the country has been completely, 100% satisfied with the Emergency Room where they are, including NYC, Westchester, or Albany.

      I have had friends and relatives with major surgeries here and at other area hospitals. I don’t know the overall outcomes of other places vs. Kingston hospitals, but I would say people have been relatively successful at both. But, we are not a major Regional Medical Center, and we never will be with a population of under 25,000.

      The question I want to get at is, what are we willing and to do to make whatever we have in the way of medical facilities the best they can be? I think Mayor Gallo’s efforts are creative and constructive. I wonder if there is a way for regular citizens to follow his lead and support his work. My own doctors have assured me they will stay here, and whatever happens, they are on board in Kingston. Can we, as their patients, say the same thing? Do we support our pharmacies, both chain and local? Can we stay on top of our medical bills? Do we revert to going to our General Practitioners and Primary Care Physicians more often than we head to specialists. What is it you suggest we do? What do other people have in mind that isn’t “Flee the area,”?

      We can’t run away from the problem. We have to embrace the future with positive action to make success inevitable.

      -Andrew Champ-Doran

  2. Mike Heany

    August 28, 2012 at 11:37 am


    Yes, I had the same experience at Emergency One but then Kingston did the same with their Fast Track. I wonder if there will be a fast track at the, er, new hospital.
    I guess everybody has had different experiences. Kingston was horrible for me but Benedictine was great.

    Do we have a say in whom the HealthAlliance hires as medical staff and the rates they pay their staff?

    A lot depends on peoples/families medical insurance, giving them more options, thus the growth of outpatient facilities. Perhaps the hospital is not reimbursed at the same rate…I don’t know.

    Of course, if the medical college was to become a reality, then it would still be years away. In the meantime. we have the downsizing of the schools, the downsizing of the hospitals, and economic factors (taxes) that cannot be ignored or easily changed and all are obviously viewed as ‘big time’ negative.

    I don’t believe writing letters, forums etc. have any impact. Decisions are made and the public is informed with meetings/forums organized under the guise of public discussion.

    Nothing short of continued mass demonstrations will have an impact…and that means a united public.

    Are you angry enough….or is it time for run for the border?

  3. Mike Heany

    August 28, 2012 at 11:53 am

    P.S. I don’t think it will be a large number of people going to Northern Dutchess but I do think it will be significant but not a factor for one Kingston Hospital. Unless it is life-threatening, I do not go to Kingston’s ER. It is 18 months away before the proposed change and it will take at least 2-3 years before they could build a reputation of quality care. I trust my doctors complicitly. If they told me the ER was ‘good’, then I would go, if needed. My experiences with Vassar and St. Francis are like yours.


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