Daily News reporter Denis Hamill interviewed an ambulance driver from the closing Long Island College Hospital who had responded to call from a heart attack victim with only minutes to live.
“I administered aspirin and nitro and forwarded his EKG by computer to the surgeons who read it and prepared the operating room to open his artery to save his life. The total time was seven minutes and in my opinion if you had to add another 12 or 15 minutes, he wouldn’t have made it.”
When St. Vincent’s was open, anyone in the West Village with a heart attack could have made the operating room in those seven minutes even walking but now we have added those perhaps fatal 12 to 15 minutes. Even tenants with heart attacks in the coming luxury condos that was St. Vincent’s Hospital may not make it if they just walk across the street to the coming North Shore LIJ ambulatory facility. All they would have achieved is losing precious time because the NSLIJ clinic will have no operating room, no surgeons, only perhaps, if it is not on another call, a waiting ambulance to take you in traffic to a very crowded emergency room and perhaps an occupied operating room (crowded hospitals now reroute approaching ambulance to less crowed hospitals with the loss of even more time).
Yet there is more.
In all of Manhattan, there are 6.3 hospital beds for every 1,000 residents but with the loss of St. Vincent’s, the number of hospital beds available to the West Village and all of Manhattan below 14th Street is 0.57.
Why, you might ask, if North Shore LIJ is spending $110 million to fix up the O’Toole building into a walk in walk out medical clinic, didn’t they go a little further and provide an operating room and beds to receive emergency patients?
The answer is, of course money or more exactly, profit.
Dr. David Kaufman, who spent 30 years at St. Vincent’s, has asked that they do just that – offer a trauma one emergency room with five additional floors to provide beds for emergency patients.
We asked WestView architecture editor Brian Pape to provide us with renderings showing an addition to the O’Toole building and a separate building on the triangular plot in front.
As I began to write this, Time Magazine devoted its entire issue to the high cost of medicine in the US.
“We spend 20% of our domestic product on healthcare, twice as much as any developed country. Americans spend more on healthcare than the next ten highest spending countries combined.”
Yet, New York is the medical capital of the world. The Shah of Iran became an international diplomatic incident when his physician begged to have him treated in New York as the only place he might be saved.
As the separation of wealth continues to accelerate, we have here in New York, the prestigious East Side hospitals who are prosperous and paying their chief executives multimillion dollar salaries and nearly all the others in middle class and poor neighborhoods in financial trouble or headed for bankruptcy (a hospital advertiser in WestView pleaded for 60 to 120 days to pay the their ad bill).
The State is operating under the theory that we have too many hospitals and too many beds and that if we allow some hospitals to fail, the surviving ones will prosper and provide the care the bankrupt hospitals once served. When I asked Mr. Berger of the Berger Commission why the state hadn’t saved St. Vincent’s, he turned on me with a vicious, “You don’t need a hospital.”
Even if this theory were true, it does not work when it comes to the emergency rooms. You cannot keep closing emergency services and move them further and further away from the community they once serve. Not, if you have only minutes to live with a heart attack or stroke.
On the radio program Left Right and Center, the editor-in-chief of Truthdig Robert Scheer, reduced it to a simple life or death equation, which is what it is.
“I think the basic choice is you are either in favor of euthanasia or some kind of universal health care; there is no middle ground. Are human beings expendable or is healthcare a human right? When people don’t have coverage they have relatives that help them or they have a community that helps them. We don’t have the position they should just die on the street corner or in their home.
We are a caring society driven by self-proclaimed religious values. The Good Samaritan tale related by Jesus says you don’t leave that person to die by the roadside. The fact of the matter is when it comes to health care and the survival of people, you’re going to act as a human society and you are going to care. You’re going to act through your family or you’re going to act through your community so we just transfer the cost.
What we have not faced up too is a way of controlling those costs.”
Michael J. Dowling who heads North Shore looked at me with a frozen smile when I asked him to add an emergency room after the bankruptcy hearing at which Rudin brought his whole family to bask in his triumph.
(This afternoon ——-Rudin will smilingly lecture the —— on their real estate triumph)
For three days, I tried to get the press office of State Commissioner of Health to respond to my question – was this an instance when the state had to intervene and the head of that office ——-elected not to respond)
Yes, certainly it is not profitable for North Shore LIJ to have an emergency room in their new walk in walk out medical facility on 7th Avenue. Head press officer, Bill Schwartz is not going to trigger the ire of Health Commissioner Nirav Shah with my question as to whether he is going to let West Villagers die in ambulances because of retreating emergency rooms.
So, in the coming months and years before a new West Village hospital is inevitably built, a few of us will not make it to that distant crowded and unknown emergency room. However, the North Shore Long Island Jewish Hospital ambulatory clinic on land that offered a real hospital for 121 years will be guaranteed a profit.