By Siggy Raible
It’s mid-August and we Manhattanites with no summer retreat are living in the city during the dog days of summer…you know, “those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.” With time on my hands, I’ve decided to respond to the article by Arthur Schwartz, “Beth Israel Hospital Staying Open—What Should It Look Like,” that appeared in the August 2021 issue of WestView News.
First, a huge thank you to Arthur Schwartz for fighting the good fight, for his activism, for getting into good trouble. As a result of Mr. Schwartz’s efforts, the administrators of Mt. Sinai have finally come to the realization that a 70-bed facility does not a hospital make. (Mt. Sinai was in the process of downsizing Beth Israel Hospital from a 600+ bed facility to a 70-or-so-bed facility.) With the help of a tiny bit of protein, Mr. Schwartz opened their eyes to the injustice which was about to be perpetrated on the residents of Lower Manhattan. As he states in the article, had Mt. Sinai proceeded with its plans, Manhattan, south of 17th Street (on both the east and west sides) would have been left with one 180-bed hospital at the South Street Seaport to serve the needs of the communities of Chelsea, the West Village, Greenwich Village, the East Village, NoHo, Chinatown, Tribeca, SoHo and the Financial District. (My apologies if I didn’t list all communities that would be affected.)
“To protect our health at a revived Beth Israel,” here’s what I think Lower Manhattan needs:
Although I am not a doctor or hospital administrator, I am, however, a consumer of health and hospital care. I cannot list in full detail all the services that are needed to provide excellent hospital care. But as a consumer of health and hospital care, I know that my community, Greenwich Village, and the adjacent communities on the west side of the island—Chelsea, the West Village, and Soho— need a full-service hospital. Let me explain.
When I was diagnosed with COVID-19 in August, 2020 at Northwell Health’s “free-standing emergency department” a/k/a Lenox Hill Greenwich Village, I was not treated at that facility. I was taken by ambulance, more than three miles north, to its full-service hospital, Lenox Hill, located at East 77th Street and Park Avenue, where I was admitted for a six-day stay. When I succumbed to pneumonia three months later, I was again treated at Lenox Hill Hospital, not at the free-standing emergency department in the Village, where I live a stone’s throw away.
We do not need a facility that will treat some emergencies and ship others to full-service hospitals, whether to Bellevue, Lenox Hill, or to Mt. Sinai Hospital at 101st Street and Madison Avenue. As stated by Mr. Schwartz in his article, in 2017 he was treated for a heart attack at Beth Israel and was told by a nurse that had he been sent to another facility he might have lost his life.
So, in my opinion, Mt. Sinai Beth Israel, which will be a hospital for a good part of southern Manhattan, should, at a minimum, provide services for all kinds of emergencies—appendectomies, heart attacks, strokes, etc. Especially now, at a time when so many are infected by a deadly novel virus requiring intensive treatment from various specialists.