It seems you and the WestView News are being punished by Northwell Health Greenwich Village (LHGV) for stating the fact that its facility is a glorified “urgent care center.” Mr. Alex Hellinger as Executive Director of Lenox Health Greenwich Village writes in a letter which you printed in February’s issue that you should know better since you’ve “visited the site on numerous occasions” and had even been a patient at the facility. And, in case you miss his point he states “we even advertise in your paper!” Well, times they are a changing; there is no ad in February’s issue.
On page four of the same February issue of WestView News we get a full page explanation from Dr. Warren Licht, Vice President of Ambulatory Operations for the West Region of Northwell Health and Director of Medical Affairs for Lenox Health Greenwich Village, of the difference between emergency room/department/centers and urgent care centers/departments. (You will notice that in his title Emergency Department/Room/Center never appears.)
We learn from Dr. Licht that an urgent care center is open basically from 9-5 and you must have insurance or the ability to “pay before being seen” and, in addition, your plan should ideally have that center in its network. If you’re lucky enough to meet the criteria, and you happen to cut your hand and feel you need to see a medical professional, you may be charged as little “as a $40 co-pay” for service rendered there versus a minimum of a $200 co-pay if you had gone to an emergency room. Presumably you have the time and you have your wits about you to call your insurer before you go to the urgent care center to ascertain whether it is in your plan and comparison shop re pricing!
Dr. Licht’s explanation sheds very little light on the difference between an emergency room, an emergency department and emergency center or Manhattan’s first-of-its-kind “free-standing emergency room.” In fact he says there is none, they are all ERs which are open 24/7 and will treat you whether or not you have insurance. He goes on to state “at Northwell Health’s Greenwich Village, the ER is truly a center, a facility that provides emergency care, with various certifications that span many departments, provided in many specialized rooms throughout the facility.” But let’s get real. Let’s take my recent experience at Northwell’s emergency-whatever-you-want-
I had been sick for approximately five days and decided I needed help, so I dragged myself over to the 13th Street location. As it turns out I was diagnosed with atypical pneumonia. The reason why I went to the old St. Vincent’s facility was that I had Medicare. I did not have to weigh the cost versus benefit of an urgent care facility versus an emergency room. (This brings up the topic of universal health coverage; a subject for discussion at another time.) I was in and out in two/two-and-a-half hours; which was great! Now contrast my visit to the ER with my friend’s experience. She was diagnosed at the very same facility three months ago with a necrotic appendix. Did she have the surgery at LHGV? No, she was shipped off to Lenox Hill Hospital at 77th Street and Lexington Avenue! So, contrary to what Dr. Licht would like us to believe, there is a difference between emergency facilities.
The difference between Lenox Hill Hospital and LHGV is obvious. The issue is not whether LHGV is an urgent care facility or an emergency center but whether it is a true “emergency room,” the ones you find in “Hollywood television dramas”—the ones you go to when you’re shot, or need an appendectomy. I would describe LHGV as an upscale urgent care facility. It’s a very lovely doc-in-a-box waiting room with new bright shiny objects, in this case imaging tools, etc.
Keeping in mind that there is no hospital south of 59th Street and Tenth Avenue on the west side of the island, I have a simple solution to the problem of what LHGV can be. Bring in all the services needed to make it a hospital. Then no one will have a problem figuring out whether they should go to LHGV for pneumonia or an emergency appendectomy.
Thanks for listening.
—Siggy Raible, Greenwich Village