Times Suggests Emergency Room Gap Closed
On October 9, two and half years after St. Vincent’s Hospital closed its doors, the New York Times finally published an article about the healthcare crisis on the Lower Westside. Not surprisingly, the author, Anemona Hartocollis, once again perceiving no crisis, chose instead to focus on the proliferation of urgent care centers as a successful substitute for a full service hospital and emergency room.
For almost three years, we (physicians, nurses, community residents and members of the Coalition for a New Village Hospital) tried in vain to have the New York Times investigate the events leading up to the closure of St. Vincent’s, the potential impact of closure on a community of over one million, and the possible ways to establish a new hospital. The Times steadfastly refused. Then several weeks ago, finally, I received a phone call from Ms. Hartocollis requesting an interview to discuss the impact of closure. Imagine my surprise? We talked for about 30 minutes during which I carefully explained how urgent care centers do NOT equal an emergency room. I described the dangers of delayed diagnosis, lack of resources to handle true emergencies, lack of continuity, communication and follow up, citing actual examples and scenarios.
Obviously, I should have saved my breathe. Instead of a thoughtful investigative piece, I awoke on October 9, to find an article that essentially said “all is well with healthcare in the Lower Westside,” the experiment is a success and the closure of St. Vincent’s is no loss because the ER was so busy, etc. The article could easily have been written by Bloomberg or the late commissioner of health Richard Daines or the current commissioner Dr. Shah, or even by one of the Rudin team. However sadly, it was written by a journalist for the “paper of record” that purports to seek the truth behind the cover stories. How sad. Yetta Kurland and I wrote the letter below to express our disagreement, but of course it was not published.
Your article correctly highlights the medical care void left by the abrupt closure of St. Vincent’s Hospital. In that void, the health care anarchy is stunning. Various medical providers are scrambling to make a buck on the crisis, but the care they are offering is not true emergency care and does not begin to meet the healthcare needs of this community.
The article does not, however, adequately portray the dangers faced by the people in the community. A child has a headache after falling in the park. A banker on his way to Wall Street has indigestion and dizziness. A senior citizen in Chelsea has a pain in her abdomen that just keeps getting worse.
These people cannot know what is wrong with them, and Duane Reade, if they’re open, is not equipped to tell them. Nor, is a “local” urgent care center. Critical time will be lost as they wait to be seen and then get “referred” to an emergency room across town. They need a place where they can be quickly diagnosed and potentially lifesaving care can be delivered immediately. They need a hospital with a true emergency room.
St. Vincent’s was the only hospital serving the Lower West Side of Manhattan – an area where over a million people live, work and visit every day. Traveling to a hospital on First Avenue adds 30 minutes to the average emergency trip. That is simply not good enough. It is going backwards.
We need a hospital to replace St. Vincent’s, a full service hospital with a 24 hour emergency room. The Lower West Side is three times the size of Albany, NY. They have four hospitals; we have none. The state and the city have launched an experiment in healthcare with one million guinea pigs. Unfortunately, the cost of this “new style of healthcare” has been and will continue to be increased death and disability.
Yetta G. Kurland, Esq.
David L. Kaufman, M.D.
on behalf of The Coalition for a New Village Hospital