Volume 80, Number 14 | September 2-8, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Urgent-care clinic to 20th St.; Plan for St. V. aborted

By Albert Amateau

After negotiations broke off for an urgent-care center in the former emergency department of the closed St. Vincent’s Hospital, North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System agreed last week to establish the center on W. 20th St. in a building owned by VillageCare.

The 24-hour center is expected to open in the fall in the two-story building at 121A W. 20th St. where VillageCare currently has a primary-care clinic.

“Rather than locate the urgent-care center in temporary space at St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Center, we are pleased to partner with VillageCare to provide a long-term home for this facility eight blocks away,” said Michael Dowling, president and chief executive officer of North Shore-L.I.J. “At the same time we will continue to pursue other opportunities to meet the emergency health needs of community residents in other neighborhoods in the St. Vincent’s catchment area,” Dowling said.

North Shore-L.I.J. received a $9.4 million state grant earlier this year to establish an urgent-care center in the St. Vincent’s catchment area.

The negotiations between North Shore-L.I.J. and St. Vincent’s foundered because St. Vincent’s required the proposed urgent-care center to follow Catholic directives banning birth-control services on its premises. North Shore and St. Vincent’s were also unable to resolve other issues, including the amount of money St. Vincent’s wanted for rent and the requirement that the urgent-care center would have to vacate the site immediately after bankruptcy court approval of a sale of the building.

North Shore-L.I.J. will use about 10,000 square feet of the 20,000-square-foot building that VillageCare owns on W. 20th St. between Sixth and Seventh Aves. The urgent-care center will be open to community residents round-the-clock, including weekends and holidays. The state Department of Health expects to approve the project quickly.

“We are extremely pleased that North Shore-L.I.J. has reached agreement with VillageCare to provide an urgent-care center in the community that was served by St. Vincent’s Hospital,” said Richard Daines, the state Health commissioner. “We look forward to working with North Shore-L.I.J. to make this come to fruition as quickly as possible.”

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn repeated her long-held opinion that Greenwich Village still needs a full-service hospital and emergency room, but added, “This is a good intermediate step that was facilitated by our office and other local elected officials.” Quinn congratulated North Shore-L.I.J. for its persistent efforts to find for space for the center.

Community Board 2 issued a statement reaffirming that the neighborhood needs a full-service hospital with an emergency room. But the board said the urgent-care center would be an important component of local healthcare services.

“We are working with elected representatives, neighboring community boards and other stakeholders in launching a community health-needs assessment, which will help determine the level and kind of service to be offered in the urgent-care facility,” the C.B. 2 statement said. The health-needs assessment would also be used to support the case for a full-service hospital, the board statement said.

VillageCare uses only part of the 20th St. building for its neighborhood primary-care clinic. It will continue to run the clinic and work with North Shore-L.I.J. to enhance community services, adding pediatric care, imaging services and specialty care, including ear, nose and throat, urology, cardiology and neurology, according to Emma DeVito, VillageCare president and chief executive officer.

“The closing of St. Vincent’s is a major blow to the Downtown community and we welcome this opportunity to work with North Shore-L.I.J. to bring these important urgent-care services to the community,” DeVito said.

Patients of the new urgent care center will have access to follow-up care in the same VillageCare location and may also be referred to other VillageCare services in nearby sites including adult day health care, short stay rehabilitation and palliative care, DeVito said.

State Senator Tom Duane welcomed the urgent-care center but warned the community to follow up on promises.

“We must remain vigilant until this facility is operational and we can be sure that it is providing the same high level of high-quality, culturally sensitive care to all who need it, regardless of the ability to pay,” Duane said. He also pledged to monitor any development plans for St. Vincent’s property east and west of Seventh Ave. between 11th and 13th Sts.

For the three years before St. Vincent’s went into bankruptcy this past April, the hospital had an agreement to sell its campus on the east side of Seventh Ave. to the Rudin Organization for residential redevelopment to help pay for a state-of-the-art new hospital to be built on the site of the O’Toole pavilion on the west side of the avenue.

The bankruptcy, estimated to involve $1 billion in debt, has put an end to that development scenario and any disposition of hospital property is subject to approval by federal bankruptcy court.

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