Over 200 Years After Its Creation, the Historic New York Eye and Ear Infirmary is Now Under Attack

By Joseph Burkart, Chairman Emeritus of the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary

Two hundred and two years ago, two visionary young New York physicians, Edward Delafield and John Kearny Rogers, engaged with a number of like-minded doctors and concerned citizens to open America’s first specialty institution dedicated to serving the needs of visually endangered citizens. It was the third hospital to be founded in the growing metropolis New York, comprising 150,000 people at the time. It was created to serve the working poor who had virtually no options for eyecare, leaving many vulnerable to loss of vision, and subsequently loss of livelihood.

Two centuries later, that same institution is under attack. Mount Sinai has embarked upon a systematic downsizing and disassembly of the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary to facilitate sale of the 14th Street and Second Avenue Hospital.

Up until recently, the Infirmary operated independently and became an expanded community resource for all in need of vision repair, caring for millions of New York’s citizens and often one of the earliest visitation sites for its newest immigrants. Its reputation for excellence in surgical care, physician training, and clinical research would lead it to be recognized among the very best of ophthalmology programs throughout the nation and the world.

Mount Sinai’s current plan to break up the institution and disperse the services would leave hundreds of thousands of patients of the greater New York community with a smaller, cramped clinic segregated from most of the faculty, surgical services, and clinical research facilities which are currently immediately accessible. The new plan would also isolate most patients from the easy access to the facility by public transportation that the hospital now enjoys.

It is incumbent upon the members of the community and elected officials to stand up to Mount Sinai which seeks to dismember this incredible institution—and stop the destruction of the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary for all New Yorkers.

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