Volume 22, Number 51 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | April 30 - May 6, 2010
State funds urgent-care center, but lawyer’s suing
By Albert Amateau
New York State on Monday announced a $9.4 million grant for a new urgent-care center for the bankrupt and soon-to-close St. Vincent’s Hospital, which has already phased out its full-service emergency room and its acute-care services.
Lenox Hill Hospital, whose main campus is on the Upper East Side, was awarded the two-year grant to establish a 24/7 urgent-care center located temporarily on St. Vincent’s Greenwich Village campus.
A second $4.6 million state grant announced on Monday will support four established community health clinics in the St. Vincent’s service area; the Callen-Lorde center on W. 18th St., the Ryan-NENA center on E. Third St., the Charles B. Wang center in Chinatown and the Ryan/Chelsea-Clinton center at 10th Ave. and W. 46th St.
The grant will also fund a 24/7 ambulance service operated by North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health Care to transport patients to other hospitals if they need more elaborate acute care than the St. Vincent’s urgent-care center can provide.
“Now that St. Vincent’s emergency department is almost completely closed, we have a better sense of where patients will be going for care,” said Richard Daines, state Department of Health commissioner. The urgent care that Lenox Hill will run in the Village, plus the four other clinics, Daines said, “will help people who have relied on outpatient and emergency room service at St. Vincent’s to maintain access to care when it’s urgently needed and to find a medical home for primary care.”
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said on Monday that she was satisfied the state chose a top-rate hospital to run the urgent-care service in the Village. But she added, “We must be clear that this does not totally provide all the services to the West Side of Manhattan that St. Vincent’s did.”
Quinn said that only a full-service hospital could fully replace St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Centers.
“However, no hospital has come forward with a proposal to buy St. Vincent’s and their massive debt,” Quinn said. “Unless that happens, the state has strived to save as many services as St. Vincent’s operated as possible.”
Congressmember Jerrold Nadler — who along with Quinn has been advocating for the preservation of St. Vincent’s as a full-service, acute-care hospital — said he was reassured that the urgent-care center would operate on the West Side.
But Arthur Schwartz, a Democratic State Committee member in Greenwich Village and a lawyer who last week sued Daines as state Health commissioner, is seeking an injunction to block the urgent-care center and compel the creation of “a Level 1 trauma and critical-care center in the St. Vincent’s service area with a fully functional emergency room and the ability to admit patients for surgery, childbirth, H.I.V. services and detoxification and a visiting doctors program designed to serve the homebound elderly living in Lower Manhattan.”
Schwartz on Monday said that State Supreme Court Justice Marilyn G. Diamond had not addressed his request the previous week to stop the state from entering an urgent-care contract because an assistant attorney general had told the judge on April 21 that the state was not anywhere near ready to enter a contract.
“Of course, we all know now that the state has various contracts to distribute at least $14 million for various replacements of St. Vincent’s non-acute-care programs,” Schwartz said, adding, “I plan to be back in court tomorrow [Wed., April 28,] to ask the judge to deal with the misrepresentation made to her and to ask her to hold off on any of the new contracts.”
Schwartz noted that a lawsuit filed by Yetta Kurland — another local lawyer, who is representing various St. Vincent’s patients — which names the hospital board of directors as defendants, has been referred to federal Bankruptcy Court, effectively putting it on hold.
Meanwhile, the St. Vincent’s board of directors has put one of its buildings, known as Staff House, at 555 Sixth Ave. at 15th St., up for sale. The building, not part of the hospital’s main campus on Seventh Ave. between W. 11th and W. 12th Sts., serves as a residence for hospital staff. It is expected to sell for more than $48 million, most of which would go to Sun Life Assurance Co., which holds the mortgage on the building.
Meanwhile, St. Vincent’s patients have been referred to other hospitals, including New York Downtown Hospital on Beekman St.
Richard Stack, an H.I.V. survivor who lives on Abingdon Square in Greenwich Village and has been a frequent patient at St. Vincent’s, needed emergency care last week.
“I’ve never been in any hospital but St. Vincent’s — ever,” he said on Tuesday. “But all my St. Vincent’s doctors have moved to New York Downtown, so that’s where I went,” he said. “It was all right and I’m coming home tomorrow [Wed., April 28]. It was the only place I could go.”