By Arthur Z. Schwartz
The best way to learn about the state of our health care is to get sick, or to be responsible for the care of a loved one, and experience it first hand. I had a heart attack in January and learned firsthand how important the survival of Beth Israel is. But, last week, I got another important reminder.
My mom, who just turned 95, and is an active, vibrant person who still goes to work every day, had an outpatient procedure at NYU Langone last week. Something went wrong, and in mid-surgery she was rushed to the Emergency Room. I ran up there, entered the doors where the patients were, and almost fell over. My mother was on a portable bed, with an IV, but she wasn’t in one of the bays, which were built to give patients privacy. She was lined up, along with about 25 other people, also on beds, outside of the bays (which were also full), much like cars lined up to enter the nearby Midtown Tunnel. The photo tells the story. I was there to advocate for my mother in this terribly overcrowded situation. However, those without a family member just lay and wait. This was just a normal Wednesday afternoon, not the day of a bus or train accident, or a mass shooting, or a building explosion.
My mom had to be admitted “for observation.” It took over 10 hours to get her into a room, in the Step Down ICU area, which she shared with three other people. By the next morning, upset about being treated in a cattle car, my mom signed herself out “against doctor’s orders.” She preferred to recuperate at home. She is strong and ambulatory, so she walked herself out the door and into a cab.
This is bad enough. Just imagine what happens when Beth Israel closes, and its current emergency room, with 700 beds waiting for patients, and its full panoply of operating rooms (except for the Cardiac Surgery Unit, which they have closed), disappears. It will be a disaster!
On April 6th, probably in response to the last three issues of WestView, Mount Sinai/Beth Israel had a public meeting to explain what was going on. They repeatedly assured those present that “nothing had closed,” which was a lie, and that there would be, in the end, no reduction in services. They presented a map of Manhattan south of 34th Street, with lots of dots, and explained the various outpatient “urgent care” facilities, which they were going to open. They also discussed how they will expand outpatient services at their Union Square East location, and how their new planned Emergency Room/70-bed hospital, at the corner of 2nd Avenue and 14th Street, would absorb all the inpatient needs now served by a nearly 800-bed hospital.
State Senator Brad Hoylman asked the hospital representatives whether they had done a “needs study” before deciding on a plan. They said “NO.” City Council Member Corey Johnson noted that they were building a two-story hospital on a plot of land where they could build six stories. The speaker said that they would build up if there was a need. Corey’s response was: “There is a need! You should do it from the start.”
Despite the lack of a study, or meaningful community notice, the NYS Health Department has approved the closure of six major parts of Beth Israel, including the Cardiac Surgery Unit and the Maternity Ward. Clearly, Mount Sinai/Beth Israel plans to close the hospital piece by piece, so that there is no way to argue, at the four-year mark, that there is anything to save.
On May 4th, at 6pm, at Local 32BJ, SEIU, at 25 West 18th Street, a Town Hall will occur to explore how to stop Mount Sinai, how to save our health care, and what you can do. Key demands, which will come out of the meeting include:
- NO MORE NYS Health Department approvals for closures without a comprehensive health needs and impact study;
- A call to the Mayor and City Council to fund such a study, to be performed with the assistance of the affected Community Boards;
- A transparent process to be implemented by the NYS Health Department and Governor Cuomo so that applications affecting public health are publicly reviewed (It is harder to get permission to have a sidewalk café, or a liquor license, than to close a hospital);
- A call to the Governor to support the creation of a single- payer health insurance system in NYS, which is key to preventing the mass closure of hospitals in the State (the legislature is just two votes short of approval for this type of system).Arthur Z. Schwartz is the Democratic District Leader for Greenwich Village, and a founder of Progressive Action of Lower Manhattan, a chapter of the New York Progressive Action Network.
Arthur Z. Schwartz is the Democratic District Leader for Greenwich Village, and a founder of Progressive Action of Lower Manhattan, a chapter of the New York Progressive Action Network.