That I find myself asking to rebuild a hospital in Greenwich Village presumptive is easy to understand if you know that a single hospital room can cost over one million dollars.
Then I received a telephone call from Dr. Alan de Klerk who offered to come talk with me.
We sat down and he quietly told me how his wife and first daughter might have died if St. Vincent’s was not so close to their Village apartment.
What follows is a recreation of that conversation.
It was as if he had been sent to erase all doubts in my mind that not only do we need a hospital in the West Village, but that life or death need dictates that it will be built.
By Alan de Klerk, MD
On a brisk and blustery morning in mid-December, 1994, three years after we moved to the West Village from New Zealand, my wife Rose, late in the 34th week of her pregnancy with our first child, experienced heavy bleeding just as I was preparing to leave for work at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center (CPMC) in distant Washington Heights where I was completing my fellowship in neonatology (the care of critically ill and other newborn babies) and where Rose also worked as a neonatal nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). An ambulance was called and whisked her promptly from our apartment on West 10th Street to nearby St. Vincent’s Hospital on the corner of Seventh Avenue and West 12th Street. After an emergency caesarian section, our daughter Madison was admitted to the NICU, and my wife to her room with a southwest view that included our apartment building near the Hudson River.
St. Vincent’s, a longstanding source of care and comfort for Greenwich Village residents, closed in April, 2010, since which time the Village has been without a full-service acute care hospital. Despite a decades-long national and international trend toward reducing inpatient care, reflected in progressively declining hospital admissions and rising outpatient visits, there remains a significant need for both (albeit with a different relative balance) in an accessible, affordable, and integrated healthcare setting. While healthcare development is complex and must be subject to consideration of regulatory requirements, financial feasibility, political hurdles, and existing regional facilities and services, among other factors, there are intuitive arguments that favor the need for and benefits of a neighborhood hospital. The population density and diversity of Greenwich Village more than justify a hospital with a comprehensive emergency service and a broad range of both inpatient and outpatient medical care, as well as full diagnostic, laboratory, radiology, and ancillary support.
Such a hospital can broaden a larger health system’s reach, patient base, and brand promotion, and provide flexibility or reduce overcrowding at its flagship hospitals as well as serve as a center of excellence in a manner targeted to particular characteristics of the neighborhood (as in the tragic example of the HIV crisis that so heavily impacted the West Village and surrounding areas). Local providers are grateful for the availability of a nearby quality inpatient option for their patients that could attract the best healthcare talent and expertise.
An industry-wide emphasis on the patient perspective in recent years is reflected in an increased focus on delivering more integrated, personalized, and coordinated health services closer to people’s homes. Advocates point out convenient access and hours for patients and visitors, reduced wait times, improved patient experience and satisfaction, closer staff-patient relationships, and a diversity of services that respond to the needs of the local population as advantages of a neighborhood hospital over a larger, non-local, regional facility.
From a population health standpoint, a hospital has the ability and incentive to create jobs and revitalize surrounding economic activity, and to promote local primary care, public health and wellness, and immunization and literacy programs. Evidence shows that these positively impact a community’s social and economic health and, in turn, community members’ physical and mental health.
Our choice for my wife to be taken to St. Vincent’s rather than to CPMC, where her prenatal care had been provided since it was so directly related to our own jobs there, was based on the recognition of the acute, life-threatening complication to both mother and baby that she was experiencing, along with the availability of a high-quality neighborhood hospital with a comprehensive range of needed services. Fortunately, both my wife and daughter did well, were discharged after several days, and continue to thrive in our amazing city. We recognize how privileged we were to have that option at the time, and how comforting and reassuring it was to have a world-class, (literally) life-saving hospital only a glance to the northeast and short stroll from our home. Isn’t it time for residents of Greenwich Village to have that critical advantage once again?