Photo by Randi Hoffman
Nurses at St. Vincent’s prayed in the hospital chapel Monday after a rally to try and save it.
Facing flatlining, St. Vincent’s gets another infusion
By Albert Amateau
St. Vincent’s Hospital nurses and staff took to the streets again Monday in their effort to whip up support for keeping the Catholic institution what it has been for more than 160 years — a full-service hospital — despite St. Vincent’s dire financial straits.
The demonstration began at 11:30 a.m. on Seventh Ave. at W. 12th St. with more than 100 chanting hospital employees. It ended in a hushed tone about an hour later in the hospital chapel with a prayer vigil led by Sister Miriam Kevin Phillips, a member of the Sisters of Charity, the order that founded St. Vincent’s in 1849.
Those prayers may have borne immediate fruit on Monday when Governor Paterson announced that additional emergency funding was secured to gain more time for the hospital’s quest for a partner to help guarantee St. Vincent’s future.
The funds made public Monday came from GE Capital and TD Bank, which together committed $5 million, and from the state Assembly majority, led by Speaker Sheldon Silver, which committed $1 million to the hospital.
GE Capital and TD Bank together hold $300 million of St. Vincent’s $700 million debt, and earlier this month kicked in a total of $5 million. Paterson had also announced earlier the commitment of a total of $9 million to stave off the hospital’s financial ruin.
But those transfusions are not likely to continue. Darren Alcus, GE Capital’s president, said in the joint statement issued Monday on the matter, “It is critical that the hospital achieves a successful collaboration in the very near term as it likely will not be feasible for us to extend additional funds to stem their continued financial losses.”
Amid his increasing political problems, Paterson last month created a St. Vincent’s Stakeholder Task Force — consisting of state, federal and local elected officials, lenders and unions representing St. Vincent’s staff and hospital officials — to come up with a long-term solution to the hospital’s fiscal problems, which include the monthly loss of between $5 million and $10 million.
Nevertheless, Village leaders and elected officials were hopeful that the new funds for the hospital would help keep St. Vincent’s alive and maintain its Level 1 trauma center and emergency room.
Jo Hamilton, chairperson of Community Board 2, which covers Greenwich Village, welcomed the funds on Tuesday.
“This means that the task force and our elected officials can continue to explore options to maintain an acute-care hospital and full-service emergency room for the Lower West Side of Manhattan,” Hamilton said. “Community Board 2 extends our thanks to all parties involved in these difficult negotiations.”
Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, chairperson of the Assembly Health Committee, said that GE Capital’s and Assembly Speaker Silver’s action on Monday gives the task force more time to work out a good future for the hospital.
Members of the New York State Nurses Association and Local 1199 at St. Vincent’s earlier voted to accept a 10 percent pay cut for 120 days and hospital officials have taken a temporary 25 percent pay cut.
“Over the past four weeks, we have had a number of discussions with potential partners for St. Vincent’s in order to preserve vital healthcare services for the West Side,” said Mark Toney, hired at the beginning of last month as the hospital’s chief restructuring officer. “The new funds made available [on March 1] give us additional time to continue those discussions.”
At Monday’s rally, Dr. Michael Wayne, a St. Vincent’s surgeon, spoke about a young stab-wound victim brought to the emergency room two weeks ago and rushed to trauma surgery just in time to save his life. If there had been no Level 1 trauma center at St. Vincent’s, the young man would have died, Wayne said.
Among the demonstrators was Elizabeth Adamo, a nurse, who pushed a stroller for her son Vincent, named for the hospital where he was born two years ago.