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BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Emergency responders made the snap decision not to take Trang Thuy “Tina” Nguyen to the nearby Lenox Hill HealthPlex last week after she was critically injured by a piece of construction fence that blew off the new Greenwich Lane project on W. 12th St. near Seventh Ave. Instead, they took her crosstown to Bellevue Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
On Tues., March 17, Nguyen, 37, was slammed by a 4-foot-by-8-foot piece of construction fence that ripped off the new development in nearly 40-mile-per-hour winds. She was thrown against a parking garage across the street, where she struck her head against a brick wall.
Following the fatality, the Department of Buildings issued a full stop-work order for the accident-plagued project, plus a violation to safeguard the site.
It’s a cruel irony that the site of the Greenwich Lane residential project was formerly St. Vincent’s Hospital. The historic Village hospital closed in 2010 and its former campus is being redeveloped into high-end residential condos by Rudin Management Co.
In addition, although North Shore-L.I.J. opened up a stand-alone emergency department last year in the former St. Vincent’s O’Toole Building across the street, it’s not equipped as a trauma center — and that’s why the decision was made not to take Nguyen there. St. Vincent’s, on the other hand, was a Level 1 trauma center, as is Bellevue.
Dr. Eric Cruzen, the HealthPlex’s emergency medical director, explained that this was a decision made by the responding medics.
“When E.M.S. providers assess a patient at the scene of an accident,” he said, “they determine whether or not the patient’s injuries require the specialized services only available at a trauma center. Bellevue Hospital is the only trauma center in the immediate area….
“They have specialized trauma teams — with trauma surgeons — on hand 24 hours a day, ready to go at a moment’s notice. They have special equipment.
“Had she come to the HealthPlex,” Cruzen said, “we would have done everything we could to have stabilized her, and then we would have likely transferred her to a trauma center.”
It’s been long established, he said, that it’s best “to go a little farther in the ambulance” to get the victim to the right place for treatment, a trauma center.
Making this decision is part of the E.M.S. responders’ job, he said.
As for the HealthPlex, according to Cruzen, since opening eight months ago, it has seen about 18,000 patients, or roughly 2,250 a month.
“People seem happy,” he said. “We get a lot of positive feedback.”
Two days after Nguyen’s tragic death, Community Board 2 passed a unanimous resolution, calling for the city to make building work-site safety a priority on par with the new Vision Zero street-safety initiative.
“Community Board 2 is greatly saddened by the tragic death of Tram Thuy Nguyen, a 37-year-old resident of our community,” the resolution stated in part. “We express our deepest condolences to her family and friends.
“C.B. 2 calls on the mayor and the New York City Department of Buildings to create a program parallel to Vision Zero,” the resolution urged, “so that workers, residents and pedestrians are fully protected from the injuries and deaths that too frequently result from preventable accidents at construction sites throughout the city.”