Volume 20, Number 46 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | March30 - April 5, 2011


Restoring an E.R. in the West Village

Last week, our editorial staff met with Michael Dowling, president and C.E.O. of North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, and Bill Rudin, president of Rudin Management Company, to hear about the unique Center for Comprehensive Care that North Shore-L.I.J. is planning at the O’Toole Building of the former St. Vincent’s Hospital.

With them was Dr. Andrew Sama, head of North Shore-L.I.J.’s 14 hospital emergency departments, which treat 600,000 people annually.

Basically, what North Shore-L.I.J. plans at 12th St. and Seventh Ave. would restore a critical part of the vitally important healthcare safety net that we lost with St. Vincent’s closure last year.

Their plan is to gut the landmarked O’Toole Building and — through adaptive reuse — refit it with a state-of-the-art, 24/7 emergency department, which, at 19,000 square feet, would actually be larger than the former St. Vincent’s emergency department. This would, in fact, be the first free-standing emergency department in New York State.

North Shore-L.I.J. has committed to investing $100 million into creating this facility, and Rudin, $10 million.

To be absolutely clear: This is not a mere health clinic or an urgent-care center — but a bona fide, full-service emergency department.

It is simply a fact that the free-standing emergency department is part of the healthcare wave of the future. There are currently more than 220 of these across the country — in at least 16 states — with more than 190 of them sponsored by or affiliated with a hospital.

The St. Vincent’s E.D. saw 20,000 “treat and release” patients per year. Initially, North Shore-L.I.J. expects its E.D. to see 30,000 patients annually, with most of these being treat and release. Everyone would be seen, regardless of insurance status.

Conditions that would be treated include chest pain and cardiac symptoms, early-onset stroke, fractures and joint injuries, motor vehicle injuries, severe cuts and burns, occupational and sports injuries and mental health issues, among others.

There would be imaging services, such as X-rays, CAT scans, M.R.I.’s and ultrasound. The center would also offer elective surgery.

The Comprehensive Care Center, generally, would not treat patients with severe trauma or requiring immediate surgical or cardiac interventions. However, if patients at the E.D. suffered an apparent heart attack or stroke, advanced life-support technologies there would enable staff to evaluate and stabilize them, and then prepare them for transport to a hospital. Childbirthing would not be done there, either.

The center would employ 400 full-time workers and would be a division of Lenox Hill Hospital. All these employees would also obviously be a life saver for nearby businesses devastated by St. Vincent’s closing.

North Shore-L.I.J. has drawn up preliminary plans for several floors of the 160,000-square-foot O’Toole Building. But they’ve left the second floor unprogrammed; Dowling said they want to consult with the community to hear what uses they would like for this floor. Perhaps it might be for local doctors’ offices, he said. When the community health needs assessment is done in May, a clearer picture might emerge for this space.

In a time of shrinking healthcare, this Comprehensive Care Center with a full-service E.D., run by a top regional hospital network, would go a long way toward restoring our neighborhood’s healthcare needs, specifically, its critical emergency-care services.

We’re certain this Comprehensive Care Center would be an extremely vital and valued asset for our community.

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