By George Capsis

I had an “Oh, wow!” moment when I read in the February 5th Villager article that Mount Sinai is “…‘leaning toward’ building an extra four floors atop its [newly proposed] mini-hospital…” This building would wrap around the shabby gray New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai at 14th Street and 2nd Avenue that I visit for my macular degeneration shot every couple of months.

Way back on October 27th of last year, Mount Sinai’s decision makers, alarmed at the crackling rolling anger of Beth Israel nurses who became aware that management was transferring departments (and with it nurses) to other hospitals in its group in an effort to stem hundreds of millions in losses since its take-over (they were projecting $500 million), held a public meeting to make things right.

With the loss of St. Vincent’s still vibrating, every single local politician showed up. Dr. Jeremy Boal and the very aggressively articulate RN Susan Somerville pitched that they were not closing down Beth Israel but rather building a better, more modern, more responsive health system the star of which was this new hospital to be built on the parking lot of the Eye and Ear Infirmary. (My eye doctor complains, “Where am I going to park?”)

Now, think about that phrase: “‘leaning toward’ building an extra four floors.”

The “extra four floors,” I believe, originated when they announced that the new hospital would have only 70 beds. To quiet the outrage of going from over 800 beds in the old Beth Israel to around 500, they now allowed their plans to indicate, with dotted lines, four more floors should the community need them. Hmm.

Imagine this cartoon: A patient is lying on a gurney about to go into an elevator for the operating room and the door opens to reveal a packed phalanx of workmen on their way up to finish the four needed additional floors.

You can tell when an organization is in trouble when it retains an expensive PR firm. Mount Sinai has done just that in hiring SKDKnickerbocker and utilizing Loren Riegelhaupt (Managing Director of the Public Affairs team) who will not come to the phone. (You have to write to him.) Finally, he stopped sending me email responses as they were beneath his contempt.

On Saturday morning, February 24th, Ron Morris came for coffee and I was shocked to see his face with eyes circled in black. “I have some kind of bronchial condition,” he offered, “and I have a 17.5 hour flight to Honolulu tomorrow morning.” His wife Arlene called later to say that they discovered he had had a heart attack and was in Lenox Hill Hospital awaiting an operation to bypass the blocked artery to his heart. (It went well and he has another operation for stents tomorrow.)

Now, the good news is that the newly proposed 70-bed Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital on 13th Street will have a Cath Lab to treat heart attacks but the bad news is that it is four years away. (The Cath Lab is named after the flexible catheter which is inserted into an artery and shoved up to remove the blockage.)

Ahh, but WestView readers will remember that about one year ago, Arthur Z. Schwartz arrived at Beth Israel with a heart attack. When the nurses discovered that he wrote for this paper, they unloaded that Mount Sinai was closing down departments before getting a sign-off from the New York State Department of Health Commissioner, and Schwartz sued.

Okay, what is going on here? We here in New York are lucky we have a lot of great doctors and excellent medical support services but medicine in New York—and in this country—is outrageously expensive. We have the most expensive medicine in the world but not necessarily the best.

So, medicine is a science that requires virtuoso practitioners to perform surgery and treat patients but medicine is also a business which has gotten out of hand. This “medicine” through PR is not the answer.

I invite Dr. Kenneth Davis, who heads Mount Sinai, for coffee at 69 Charles Street. We can have a quiet little chat without Mr. Riegelhaupt. We need truth, not adjectives.

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