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St. Vincent's to stay open, but not in original form

Stephon Johnson | 4/12/2011, 5:24 p.m.

New York State Gov. David Paterson announced Monday an award of $14 million in grants to support health care services for Greenwich Village neighborhood residents displaced by the closure of St. Vincent's Catholic Medical Center.

Included in that $14 million is a $9.4 million reward to Lenox Hill Hospital to run an urgent care center at St. Vincent's 24 hours a day and seven days a week. The center will operate at St. Vincent's site for an undisclosed amount of time. Lenox Hill will then look to move the center to another location in the Village, where it will operate it for a minimum of five years after the initial two-year grant period.

"Once again, managers and operators in our health care system have taken the initiative to fill in the gaps left by the closure of a key provider in the community," said Paterson. "These projects will create a new model of care that will maintain access to urgent care services on the West Side of Manhattan and expand access to primary and preventive medical care."

Paterson has slated the remaining $4.6 million to support the expansion of services at the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, the Ryan-NENA Community Health Center, the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center and the Ryan/Chelsea-Clinton Community Health Center--all of which are in the same neighborhood as St. Vincent's. Grant funds will also go towards renovation and expansion of the sites and staff. In the end, Paterson hopes they will handle 75,000 additional patient visits a year, about a 20 percent increase.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is somewhat pleased by the latest developments, but he understands the current temperament of New Yorkers during the financial crisis.

"The latest developments regarding St. Vincent's end a period of uncertainty for all of the New Yorkers who rely on this health care institution," said Stringer. "By keeping an urgent care facility in Greenwich Village, we are at the very least mitigating the disastrous possibility of losing a hospital entirely.

"Going forward, we need to create a more transparent system when it comes to the financial health of our hospitals, so that we never find ourselves in this situation again," Stringer stated.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn also weighed in on the latest St. Vincent's development. Quinn is happy that St. Vincent's will stay open in some sort of capacity but wanted to remind New Yorkers that it won't be like it used to be.

"We must be clear that this does not totally provide all services to the West Side of Manhattan that St. Vincent's provided," said Quinn. "Any patient requiring in-patient or more elaborate acute care will have to be transported to another site. Only a full-service hospital can fully replace St. Vincent's Catholic Medical Center. However, no hospital has come forward with a proposal to buy St. Vincent's and their massive debt.

"My office is now exploring legislation that could force hospitals to notify the city of impending financial problems in advance of actual problems," said Quinn. "We must do everything possible to prevent other communities from having to go through what we are experiencing."

The New York State's Department of Health will monitor health care services and determine, along with the State Office of Mental Health, whether further investment is needed for emergency care and psychiatric services.

This is current-day New York, where the common people lose essential services and the state government, that many deem corrupt, takes on the role as saviors. A recent survey conducted by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion said that a quarter of New Yorkers believe that Wall Street is the solution to the city's problems. Those New Yorkers might want to look at St. Vincent's situation and reconsider government's relationship with Wall Street.