New York's St. Vincent's Hospital Pulls the Plug

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After a long struggle to stay alive despite a crushing $700 million debt, New York's St. Vincent's Hospital pulled the plug on itself on Tuesday, April 6. Though an exact date was not given for the closing, it appears the end will come soon. On Friday ambulances stopped taking patients to the hospital (except for psychiatric issues) and on April 14 elective surgeries will cease. What will this mean for the hospital's Greenwich Village neighborhood?
Despite the fact that the hospital has been faltering for months, news of the closing stunned area residents.
"The obvious loss is the proximity," said longtime West Villager Susann Tepperberg. "When my daughter was in a car accident on the West Side Highway with facial injuries, a top-notch plastic surgeon was immediately available at St. Vincent's."

Tepperberg said she'd also miss the general enrichment that comes from having a hospital nearby -- such as discussions on nutrition, diabetes, and high blood pressure -- as well as "the programs by St. Vinny's at the local Y." Outstanding physical therapy is yet another loss, said Tepperberg. "When someone has foot or disk problems, it's great to have the best care nearby without dragging one's aching body a distance."
A broker who handles many Greenwich Village sales pointed out that the NYC real estate markets are specifically defined by neighborhood. "Apartments and town houses in Greenwich Village and the West Village -- West Side Highway to Broadway and 14th Street to Houston Street -- have always been a magnet for buyers and renters, particularly for those with families, because of a number of unique factors," she said. Among these factors: exceptional schools, both public and private; safe, well-maintained parks; neighborhood amenities, such as greenmarkets, gyms, restaurants, etc.

"Greenwich Village is a walking neighborhood," she added, "where the near proximity of all these destinations negates the need for bus, taxi or subway transportation. Until very recently we were secure in the knowledge that St. Vincent's -- whose emergency room has for several years consistently been named number one over all five boroughs in the New York magazine poll of physicians and surgeons -- was within walking distance.... a major benefit and comfort to anyone raising children in the neighborhood."
The closure of the St. Vincent's Hospital Complex means that the nearest hospital available to Greenwich Village residents will now be New York Downtown Hospital, which is south of City Hall and East of Broadway (up to six congested avenues east of 10th Avenue and 32 congested blocks south of 14th Street). Or the other option is St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital on 10th Avenue at 58th Street, 44 congested blocks north of 14th Street on 10th Avenue.

"This is a breathtaking negative that will undoubtedly have an appreciable impact on the Greenwich Village real estate market in the months and years ahead," concluded the broker.
A retired physician who worked at St. Vincent's for more than 20 years was not surprised by the closing, citing mismanagement of epic proportions for years. "Also, the hospital has too many beds, given the fact that medicine and medical insurance have changed. Where a hernia surgery once kept you in the hospital for several days, now it's an outpatient procedure. So you end up with a 900-bed hospital serving 400 patients. When the cardinal [O'Connor] decided to merge all the city's Catholic hospitals, that hurt St. Vincent's. The consolidation was supposed to draw patients to St. Vincent's. It didn't happen."

Queried about the the loss to the neighborhood, he replied that the very neighborhood that is now bemoaning the closing is as much to blame as the hospital. "When St. Vincent's wanted to knock down the old Maritime building [also known as the O'Toole Building] to build a small, modern, efficient 400-bed hospital, neighborhood activists [led by Susan Sarandon and husband Tim Robbins] fought the proposal--even though the hospital said it could not survive."

Sadly, the hospital will not survive.

Local and state officials including Gov. Paterson say they are trying to find a way to replace the hospital's emergency room functions with an urgent care center that would provide some emergency services.

See Greenwich Village and other New York homes for sale at AOL Real Estate.
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