Westbury Community Hospital, a mental health facility, at risk of shutting down

August 2, 2013 3:50:01 PM PDT
There's a desperate plea from a local hospital that mostly serves people with mental problems. Officials at Westbury Community Hospital say they may be forced to shut their doors for good soon.

Walking the hallways of Westbury Community Hospital on Friday, you couldn't tell it might shut down forever by Monday. But that's exactly why owner Fred Bhandara is worried.

"We've got to preserve the hospital. We've got to the 250 employees who work here, and we've got to preserve the services that we provide to the community," Bhandara said.

The hospital serves mostly indigent mental health patients, which means the majority of its funding comes from government reimbursements.

The hospital is in a dispute with the Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Services, and the feds are withholding $430,000 in payments. If that's not resolved by Monday, a judge could shut the hospital down and employees would lose their jobs.

"It's not easy out here trying to find a job. And I enjoy the atmosphere and I enjoy working here," hospital employee Alfred Hodges said.

Federal authorities raided the hospital 16 months ago. Since then, it's operated under bankruptcy with a court-appointed manager, who the owner says is top notch.

"He's working for the judge, he's not doing any hanky panky," Bhandara said.

The federal government wouldn't comment about the dispute because of the pending court action, which means patients and workers are in limbo.

"I've got friends who work here, I've got family who work here, it's a good facility. We help patients," hospital employee Rob Boarer said.

Right now, there's about 60 in-patients at the hospital, and it's unclear where they would go if this hospital is to shut down.

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