George Capsis is on a Mission to Bring a Hospital to Our West Village

GEORGE CAPSIS SPEAKS about St. Vincent’s in the film The Lost Village. Photo by Roger

By Roger and Anthony Paradiso

George Capsis, the publisher of this paper, is on a mission. He wants to see a modern hospital built to replace St. Vincent’s Hospital, which was taken from this community on April 30, 2010. In its place came an emergency room run by Northwell Health, New York’s largest healthcare provider. Because it was an emergency facility only, it had no cath lab and no beds for admitting patients on a long-term basis. This has been an atrocity for the people of the West Village, Tribeca, and Chelsea.

I asked George how many hospital beds there are on the entire Lower West Side of Manhattan. He said, “We looked at a chart that divided Manhattan into four quadrants and listed the number of beds in each quadrant. The number of beds in the West Village, and all of the Lower West Side of Manhattan, was seven. We did that before Northwell was created, though no one can yet locate those seven beds. So, when St. Vincent’s closed almost 12 years ago, there were no beds in this large, populous area of Manhattan.

George knew this was coming when he first heard of plans to shut down St. Vincent’s Hospital. He used WestView News as his bully pulpit, and railed against City Hall and the politicians who stood by and eventually let St. Vincent’s go in exchange for very expensive condominiums. He appeared in my award-winning film, The Lost Village, and spoke eloquently about losing St. Vincent’s. “A hospital is not just beds, it is a medical community,” George said. We tend to forget the importance of a 24-hour hospital to a community. In many cases it is a lifesaver, and also gives all neighbors peace of mind to know it is there.

St. Vincent’s was the first hospital to take charge during the AIDs pandemic. “Since the hospital was known to be caring for AIDS patients, it began to lose its private patients who were fearful of becoming exposed to it. Since the hospital never refused patients who could not pay, it plunged into bankruptcy. No real help came from the state, city, or Department of Health, and the church and the hospital were forced to close its doors in 2010.”

He has been in talks with a Village celebrity about supervising a West Side Hospital fundraising drive he will be launching in the near future. At the age of 94, George is determined to see a modern facility financed, and in the pipeline to be built somewhere near the old St. Vincent’s Hospital. This would be a great gift to his friends and neighbors in the West Village, as well as to all residents of Manhattan’s Lower West Side.

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