“You’ll never get a hospital,” declared Michael J. Dowling in his Limerick accent,receiving a roar of rage from a packed West Village audience at PS 41. This was after North Shore LIJ and Rudin were successful in the bankruptcy court over the 11 buildings of St. Vincent’s for a mere $230 million in April, 2011.
Dowling, Head of North Shore Long Island Jewish Hospital, offered what he must feel is a current business fact – thecost of maintaining surgeons and a 24/7 operating room team along with beds for the critically ill is reserved for a handful of very rich New York hospitals. Hospitals such as the North Shore LIJ, which he manages, have mastered the Byzantine art of charging $7 for an aspirin to the insured patient in order to pay for the uninsured victim of an auto accident that the law says they have to treat.
What Dowling has offered is “a 24 hour emergency care center with ambulatory surgery.” Don’t make the mistake of walking in with a heart attack because you will only find yourself in an ambulance on the way to a distant, crowded emergency room with a surgeon hopefully ready to remove the blockage to your heart.
I am sure the North Shore LIJ ambulatory clinic, when it opens this fall, will have the latest gleaming medical equipment which will be operated by smiling and affable technicians, but certainly not by expensive doctors. I had months of prostate cancer radiation at Beth Israel and never saw a doctor, just a team of very young machine operators. This is “automated” medicine,the cost of which few are in a position to question. However, a recent study found the cost of a mammogram varying from $300 to $1500.
Yet wait. New York Presbyterian has a staff of 13,000 and 2,200 beds and is considered one of the best hospitals in the world; oil sheiks jet in with their entourage and Russian oligarchs book private rooms for their families. “If you are in LA and get sick, crawl to a plane and get back to New York,” intoned consultant Al Stern, so prized is the best of New York medicine.
St. Vincent’s is rapidly being converted into luxury condominiums for just a few hundred of the wealthiest – the one percent– and they will certainly, for their primary medical care, avail themselves of the best Upper East Side doctors. However, if at 2 AM on a Sunday morning they have a heart attack, they will, like all of us, find themselves with only minutes to live in an ambulance moving in traffic to a remote– and since we have lost nine hospitals –crowded emergency room and even perhaps an occupied operating room.
In Manhattan, we have six beds for every 1,000 residents. Yet below 14th Street here in the West Village, we have only half a bed available. So, simple arithmetic tells us that sooner or later, a new hospital will be built – has to be built – but when and by whom?
New York Presbyterian goes way back to 1771, as do most of the great hospitals of the city. It has taken time to attract outstanding doctors and build a reputation as the very best and great hospital; great universities attract great skills and great benefactors– but more about this later.
If we, you and I, were going to dream up a new hospital that could indeed attract the best surgeons, physicians and medical researchers in the world, what would it look like, what would make it different and special from any other hospital in the world?
It is not easy to do, but there is one way to attract the best medical community in the world and that is to give them, as part of their compensations, a luxury apartment in a glass tower overlooking the sparkling waters of the Hudson. This is exactly what we are proposing; we will also keep the operating room surgeons only an elevator ride away.
Our Architectural Editor Brian Pape has prepared a rendering of a new hospital to be built on top of the three-block long St. John Terminal building at West Houston Street and the West Side Highway.The first five floors are hospital, but in the four 20-story glass towers above, are apartments to attract the big names in medicine and to help buy the land and build the hospital; some of the apartments will be sold or rented. This is something onlya new hospital can do. It can attract and build the medical luminaries right into the building. However, hospitals can do more,they can do medical research.
For some years, my wife Andromache has had a pace maker. On a recent hospital visit,the nurse read out the history of her cardiac“incidents” from the devices memory.I viewed a program on TV that catalogued electronic implants that would measure and report vital signs making a hospital visit less necessary. We even have micro medical cameras that you can swallow.
Without question, electronics will more and more sense and repair the medical anomalies of the human body. With that in mind, I propose that our new hospital become a global center for the use of electronics in medicine; just a few blocks away we have 3,000 young people at Google knitting together the global community.
So, we have a location, a concept and even a rendering of a new hospital – how do we pay for it? Right here in the West Village,we have what is perhaps the smartest fundraiser around in Naomi Levine who found millions for NYU when it was $400 million in the hole. Her guide to finding large gifts was Larry Tisch, who had a 3G principal for board members – Give money,Get money, Get off the board.
Nonprofits raise and distribute more than $300 billion a year. As more of New York’s wealth moves into fewer and fewer hands, it will be one of those who finds him or herself with unconscionable wealth saying, “Why sure the West Village, the West Side of downtown Manhattan, needs a hospital and hold on, I may need an emergency room 15 minutes away when my kid is choking on a swallowed toy.”
Wait though, no multi billionaire is going write out a check for $100 million after reading this article – not one.
We have a way to go before this hospital becomes inevitable.
That billionaire has to hear from you…