By Arthur Z. Schwartz
First, I want to thank everyone who sent me messages of support after my heart attack got featured on the front page of WestView. The issue came out on Wednesday, February 1st, four days after my heart attack, and I was back at work before the issue hit the streets. I thank God for deciding that it was not my time to go, and for the proximity of Beth Israel Hospital, whose heart surgeons kept me alive.
Who knows what would have happened had Beth Israel not been open, or if I had needed bypass surgery and would have had to go up to Mount Sinai at 99th Street. Imagine if I had my heart attack at 8:00am on a Monday and had gotten stuck in traffic. Instead, I was on an operating table around one hour and 15 minutes after I woke up feeling awful and surmising that I was having a heart attack.
According to the American College of Cardiology, the best results occur if the clot or blockage causing a heart attack is opened up within 90 minutes of being detected. I just made it within that time frame, and as a result, I suffered only “minimal” heart damage. If Beth Israel had not been open, or if I had needed something more than a stent, I may have died.
Last May, Beth Israel announced that it was closing its 825-bed hospital “in four years,” and breaking ground on a new 70-bed hospital, at 2nd Avenue and 14th Street, with an external emergency room, sometime this year. There was an initial flurry of activity by local politicians just after the announcement was made, and then SILENCE. All I could find online was a community meeting in January hosted by Community Board 3 and Council Member Rosie Mendez to discuss the construction timeline.
Meanwhile, piece by piece, Beth Israel is being dismantled. As I reported last month, the Cardiac Surgery Unit has been moved to West 114th Street and Amsterdam Avenue (St. Luke’s Hospital). The Continuum Center for Health and Healing, which had 32 clinicians and 6,000 patient visits per month, has closed and a four-physician offshoot, using the same name, opened at 6th Avenue at 8th Street. While I was in the hospital, nurses told me that 200 beds per day were still in use, and that the 70-bed hospital “replacement” was a joke; it would never be able to handle serious, life-threatening surgery, on any scale.
Still, not a peep from local politicians. And Governor Cuomo, whose Health Commissioner must be approving all of these moves, has been silent and has not gotten the complaints he should be receiving from this community.
WestView has been floating hospital proposals. In January, the paper featured an article strongly supporting a new hospital at Pier 40. This month, Publisher George Capsis is also working on a proposal for the docking of a decommissioned Navy hospital ship at Pier 40—with 1,000 beds!
The Progressive Action for Lower Manhattan (PALM), our local chapter of the New York Progressive Action Network (PAN), has organized a People’s Town Hall about the crisis in health care in Lower Manhattan for Thursday, March 30th at Local 32BJ’s Union Hall (5 West 18th Street). Every politician, as well as the area’s major health providers, have been invited to speak and answer our question, “What are you doing?” Join us!
Arthur Z. Schwartz is the Male Democratic District Leader for Greenwich Village.