New York healthcare community reacts to St. Vincent's closing

Soon after Tuesday's announcement that struggling New York-based St. Vincent's Hospital would close its doors, questions arose as to how the city would fill the gap in care for the Greenwich Village neighborhood, home to a high percentage of patients who are poor and uninsured.

The closing of the 160-year-old institution, New York's last Catholic acute-care center, will force residents to travel dozens of blocks on New York City's congested streets to get to the nearest emergency room, patients and residents told The Wall Street Journal.

To accommodate people who would have been admitted to St. Vincent's, the city has asked the state for $2 million to add 32 beds at Bellevue and Metropolitan Hospital for psychiatric patients, Alan Aviles, president of New York City Health and Hospitals Corp., which runs the city's public hospitals, told the Journal. Health and Hospitals Corp., also has asked the state for money to pay initial staffing costs, especially to supplement Bellevue's ER, Aviles said.

In addition, two private hospitals, Roosevelt and Beth Israel Medical Center, will increase the staff in their ERs to accommodate patients who would have gone to St. Vincent's, reports The New York Times. The facilities will also grant immediate temporary privileges to St. Vincent physicians and try to give laid-off workers priority in hiring, said Jim Mandler, a spokesman for Continuum Health Partners, which runs the hospitals. Mount Sinai Hospital will extend privileges to St. Vincent's doctors as well.

And according to The New York Daily News, hope is not lost for St. Vincent's ER, as both Mount Sinai and Continuum are still in talks to take over the emergency department and crucial community clinics. Any hospital that runs an urgent care center at St. Vincent's would benefit from access to its patients, but it's unclear whether the center would be obligated to accept the uninsured.

Some St. Vincent's officials also expressed doubts that an urgent care center would be sufficient. Dr. Charles Carpati, St. Vincent's chief of the medical intensive care unit and a member of the hospital executive committee, told the Times that St. Vincent's was the only full-service hospital below 58th Street on the West Side providing trauma, radiology and neurosurgery, among other services. "Once we go, this part of town will be isolated and dependent on traffic to gain these services in emergencies. Even in common emergency diseases such as heart attack and stroke, time is of the essence," he said.

For more information about St. Vincent's:
- read this piece in the Wall Street Journal
- check out this New York Daily News article
- read this New York Times story