Volume 80, Number 41 | March 10 -16, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Photo by Albert Amateau

During daytime hours, except Sundays, VillageCare operates the center on 20th St.


Off on the right foot, urgent-care sees first patient

By Albert Amateau

A woman with a sprained ankle hobbled into a brand-new urgent-care center in Chelsea around 8 p.m. Tues., March 8.

She was the first patient in the center that North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System opened an hour earlier at 121A W. 20th St., in partnership with VillageCare, to help fill the void left by the closing of St. Vincent’s Hospital last April.

“She was in and out in about 40 minutes — after we X-rayed and gave her a brace, pain meds and referrals to local help,” said Dr. Benjamin Greenblatt, medical director of the urgent-care center, referring to the center’s first patient.

“She was our prototypical patient. I was expecting patients to find us through the Internet, but she was just hobbling around looking for someplace for help,” said Greenblatt, a North Shore-L.I.J. doctor for the past nine years and associate emergency room director of Forest Hills Hospital, a North Shore-L.I.J. affiliate in Queens.

The new urgent-care center occupies the lower level of VillageCare’s primary-care clinic between Sixth and Seventh Aves. The center, open all night on weekdays and Saturdays and 24 hours on Sundays, sees walk-in patients, without appointments, 365 days a year.

During daytime hours on weekdays and Saturdays, VillageCare serves urgent-care patients when the new center is closed. VillageCare is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. The new center picks up its schedule when VillageCare is closed, providing 24/7 community healthcare.

“The clinical arrangement with VillageCare is unique,” said Greenblatt. “It provides continued care for urgent-care patients who need ongoing treatment and other services.”

The 4,000-square-foot downstairs space includes a reception desk, six examination rooms, and special testing and diagnostic services, including electrocardiogram, digital X-ray and lab facilities. The staff, in addition to Greenblatt, includes certified emergency room physicians, radiology technicians, office and medical assistants, security guards and a driver.

Dr. Benjamin Greenblatt, the urgent-care center’s medical director.

“A North Shore-L.I.J. ambulance will be outside the door and patients who need another level of care after they are stabilized will get to wherever it’s available as fast as possible,” Greenblatt said.

The center was specially designed for patients like the woman who came in with a sprained ankle on opening night. In addition to minor trauma, like sprains, strains, lacerations and small broken or dislocated bones, the center expects to handle problems like ear infections, bronchitis, flu, urinary problems and food poisoning, as well as more serious issues like pneumonia, allergic reactions and children’s ailments, including sore throat, nausea and vomiting and rashes.

The entire two-level VillageCare facility will undergo a two-phase reconstruction beginning at the end of this month. While the ground-level clinic is under construction, the VillageCare clinic will share the recently reconstructed downstairs space with the urgent-care center. Urgent care will move to the ground-floor level when the construction is complete and VillageCare will continue in the lower level.

“I expect everything will be completed by the end of this year,” said Nicholas Rossetti, administrator of the VillageCare facility.

Greenblatt noted that he has first-hand experience of a community affected by hospital closings.

“The situation with St. Vincent’s closing is like the experience in Forest Hills in Queens where there were multiple closings of Catholic hospitals in a single year,” he said. “Forest Hills Hospital had a big increase in emergency room patients. I have friends in Bellevue [Hospital] who’ve told me about the enormous increase in their emergency room since St. Vincent’s closed. This community really needs health services like ours,” Greenblatt added.

State Senator Tom Duane, a member of the state Senate’s Health Committee, who toured the W. 20th St. urgent-care center, said, “While it is not a substitute for the full-service hospital and emergency room for which we in the community continue to fight, this 24/7 facility is a significant addition to the Lower West Side’s healthcare infrastructure.”

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