Volume 81, Number 1 | June 2 - 8, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Photo by Tequila Minsky

Some, like this woman at a rally last month, insist that the North Shore-L.I.J. free-standing emergency department plan isn’t definite. However, federal Bankruptcy Court has already approved the sale of the former main St. Vincent’s Hospital campus for residential redevelopment.

North Shore-L.I.J. presents E.R. plan as hospital hopers hang on

By Lincoln Anderson

North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System officials publicly showed their plan for an emergency-care facility Tuesday night, but most in the crowd wanted something more — nothing less than a full-service hospital with trauma care.

Michael Dowling, C.E.O. of North Shore-L.I.J., and Maurice Labonne, senior vice president for facilities services, made the presentation at Community Board 2’s St. Vincent’s Omnibus Committee meeting, held at P.S. 41, and chaired by Brad Hoylman.

The planned $110 million facility would be located in the former St. Vincent’s Hospital O’Toole Building, at 12th St. on Seventh Ave.’s west side. St. Vincent’s Hospital has donated the building and the property to North Shore-L.I.J. The plan is for O’Toole to house the state’s first free-standing emergency department, as well as a comprehensive-care center, operating 24/7, 365 days a year, with a staff of 400.

Around 95 percent of patients visiting the emergency room would be “treat and release,” while those with more serious conditions would be transported by ambulance to nearby hospitals.

The facility would not have inpatient beds or provide cardiac or neurosurgery, or treat serious head wounds or gunshot wounds, for example.

Protocols would be set for E.M.T.’s and paramedics so they would know not to take patients there requiring trauma care or higher-level care.

However, the majority of the 125 to 150 people who attended Tuesday’s meeting are among those still holding out hope that a full-service hospital can be restored to the Village, to replace St. Vincent’s, the city’s last Catholic hospital, which closed in April 2010, bankrupt, with a staggering $1 billion debt.

Following the presentation and questions by board members, audience members were invited to give remarks at a microphone.

Yetta Kurland and Jim Fouratt, members of the Coalition for a New Village Hospital, got the loudest cheers. Kurland said hundreds of millions of dollars in government funds are available for a new hospital. She also assured that a plan for a new hospital by a group led by former Councilmember Alan Gerson was real. However, a Bankruptcy Court judge, feeling the Gerson plan was too vague, in April O.K.’d the sale of the main former St. Vincent’s hospital campus to Rudin Management for residential redevelopment.

Sharon Woolums, in her comments, said that a month ago she was biking on Tenth Ave. at 29th St. and was hit by a truck, which nearly backed over her. She was treated at the Bellevue E.R. and it went fine, she said. But she said if the truck had crushed and critically injured her, her chances of surviving would have been far greater with St. Vincent’s nearby on the West Side, rather than having to go crosstown.

Dr. Josh Turgovnick, a physician at St. Vincent’s for 30 years, similarly said that heart attack and stroke victims’ survival rates drop with each extra minute before treatment.

As doctors say, “Time is [heart] muscle” and “Time is brain,” he noted. Delays in treating children suffering asthma attacks can cause permanent lung damage, he said, adding, “And they will die.”

However, asthma is, in fact, one of the many conditions the North Shore-L.I.J. center would treat.

Liz Ryan, who has lived in the Village all her adult life, said Mayor Bloomberg should contribute $200 million of his own money toward a new Village hospital.

“What a legacy” that would be, she said.

“Find the money!” a woman in the audience called out. A new hospital could cost up to $900 million, according to North Shore-L.I.J.

Lloyd Bishop, of the Greater New York Hospital Association, which represents 250 New York State hospitals, spoke in support of the free-standing E.R. and comprehensive-care center. He said the new facility would be a part of the Downtown Manhattan health network, along with Bellevue, Beth Israel and New York Downtown hospitals. But his remarks were met by boos from the audience.

As Timothy Lunceford, one of the last speakers, advocated for a full-service hospital, a man came behind him and unfurled a large yellow banner, reading: “Brad Hoylman and C.B. 2 have blood on their hands. We need a full-service hospital.”

Hoylman didn’t bristle at the incendiary banner, deadpanning, “Thanks for spelling my name right.”

Hoylman announced there will be another public hearing about North Shore-L.I.J.’s plan, on Wed., June 8, at 6:30 p.m. at Village Community School, 272 W. 10th St. This will specifically be C.B. 2’s review of the draft scope of work on the project’s environmental impact statement, or E.I.S. — which will look into all its impacts, as Hoylman explained it, “quality of life, healthcare, housing, traffic and noxious gases.”

Afterward, asked his thoughts on the meeting, Dowling said, “Well, obviously, a lot of people are very concerned.” While many in the audience want a full-service hospital, he said, “I indicated that I do not see that happening. I don’t know anybody that is considering doing that.”

Similarly, afterward, Hoylman told Dr. Turgovnick and Dr. David Kaufman, another former St. Vincent’s doctor who has been active in fighting for a new hospital, “We wish, if there was a hospital willing to build now — please come forward.”

Later, asked his thoughts on the banner, Hoylman said, “Sure, the banner was over-the-top and off-target, but I guess it comes with the territory. And I’ve done this kind of thing myself in the past, so I don’t have any hard feelings. I’ve e-mailed Louis Flores, who was responsible for it, and asked him to sit down and explain what he thinks we could be doing differently on St. Vincent’s.”

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