Welcoming a new healthcare center, still hoping for hospital

DISTRICT LEADER

BY KEEN BURGER  |  Politically in the past year we have some accomplishments. Seravalli Park and the High Line extension finally open, a smoother Election Day, community support for Occupy Wall Street, some backlash against immigration hate. But we still have overcrowded schools, a dearth of healthcare and new housing only for the very rich.

I am working on all those problems. I want to devote the rest of my report to the issue that seems to concern the community most  — St. Vincent’s.

My family and I were treated at St. Vincent’s Hospital six times, only once with advance planning and an overnight stay. That was a few months before the hospital closed, for the birth of my first grandchild. The hospital allowed midwives from all over the city (Lissa’s midwife was on the Upper West Side), with supportive nurses and emergency backup.

My daughter labored in the hospital for 24 hours when a doctor said policy required a C-section at that point — but then another doctor allowed the midwife and my daughter to keep working. Asa (10 pounds, 3 ounces) was born vaginally several hours later — hurray for the hospital. My breastfeeding daughter was sent home with an unrequested promotional kit of formula. I protested; the hospital stopped that practice. Again, hurray.

Personally as well as politically, I mourn the closing of St. Vincent’s. The hospital was far from perfect, but the staff responded to human needs — even when policies and procedures dictated otherwise. Closing was illegal, and worse, unethical and unfair. We need economic and healthcare priorities that allow good healthcare for everyone, in every neighborhood, including here.

While we work for that, I welcome having nearby emergency care at the O’Toole Building. I don’t believe the 24-hour emergency department destroys the possibility of getting a full-service hospital and trauma center restored. Some people disagree — I think we disagree on strategy, not goals.

On strategy, how do we get a new public school, a new community park, better traffic laws, fewer noisy bars, fairer elections…and a just and peaceful world? Those goals are clear; I try every day to find the best strategies. Without thousands of neighbors who share these goals, I would give up. Thank you.

Berger is Democratic district leader, 66th District, Part A

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