The New York Department of Health last week announced that it has amended the operating certificates of 18 health care facilities for failing to comply with the mandates of the Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century.

The recommendations of the panel, otherwise known as the Berger Commission after its chairman, Stephen Berger, became legal mandates 18 months ago for 81 medical facilities and nursing homes to downsize, merge, or close.

The deadline for compliance was June 30 and most of those facilities have complied, according to a status report released last week. The commission’s goal was to streamline the state’s hospitals and nursing homes by eliminating excess capacity and shifting treatment toward primary and preventative care.

“The Berger Commission recognized that allowing excess institutional capacity to linger in our health care system for years discouraged the expansion of primary care and community-based long-term care services,” state Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines said in a press release. “As we move forward, the state and local communities need to take a more proactive role in restructuring the state health care system along the lines recommended by the commission.”

By the end of this year, nine hospitals will have been closed, removing about 1,700 beds from the system, the department said in a press release. Mergers, downsizings, and affiliations will take an additional 1,700 beds out of the system by the end of 2010, and 2,700 nursing home beds will be removed by the end of 2011.

Many of the facilities will receive or have already received grants to implement the recommendations, which in some cases include the retirement of debt. The federal government pledged $1.5 billion in aid to New York and the state is providing $550 million of grants for the implementation of the recommendations. The grants will be made from the general fund, which eventually will be reimbursed by proceeds of bonds sold by the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York.

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