For the past few weeks, hope that a health care provider would save Jamaica’s 108-year-old Mary Immaculate Hospital seemed to fade with each IV pole, stretcher and stack of office paper loaded into moving vans.
The Oct. 15 sale of Mary Immaculate Hospital, along with St. John’s Queens Hospital, to a developer appeared to be the end of the line for the two medical centers.
Brooklyn-based firm J. Guttman Realty purchased the hospitals at auction for $26.63 million. The hospitals shut last February after their owner, Caritas Healthcare, Inc., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
After the auction, the Guttman firm announced it plans to use Mary Immaculate for office space, educational and religious facilities.
That came as sad news to many in the neighborhood. Southeast Queens currently has the lowest ratio of doctors to patients in the borough, with 48 primary care doctors per 100,000 people. North of the area, there are 132 doctors per 100,000 people.
“The people in downtown Jamaica and a lot of other people who have lost their jobs and are fending for themselves, they don’t have the ability to go to these other locations and seek doctors out,” said Eugenia Ruddman, president of Hollis Park Gardens Civic Association and member of SQUISH, or Southeast Queens in Support of Health Services, a coalition of community groups and residents formed when Mary Immaculate first faced the threat of closure.
Some 3,000 workers were laid off when the two hospitals closed, but a few stayed on to maintain the buildings until they were sold. The day of the sale, two of a handful of workers left at Mary Immaculate Hospital paused to reflect on the hospital, and the fate of the community they have worked in for over two decades.