As the last baby was born Friday in the maternity ward of St. Vincent's Hospital in Greenwich Village, state officials received proposals to create an urgent care center to replace the closing hospital. NY1's Health reporter Kafi Drexel filed the following report.
As Abigail Jancu, the last baby born at St. Vincent's Hospital, went home Friday, the Greenwich Village hospital took another step toward closing its doors.
"My midwife called me, and said, 'If you want to be the last one at St. Vincent's, come now,'" said Anastasia Jancu, Abigail's mother, seen right.
While St. Vincent's will no longer be a birthing center, and ambulances are already bypassing its emergency room, efforts are underway to create something new at the hospital. Four health care organizations submitted proposals to the state to transform it into an urgent care center that would handle non-life threatening emergencies, but would not admit patients.
"An urgent care center can actually offer many things that a regular ER can’t," said Dr. Richard Daines, the state health commissioner. "Anybody that’s been seen in an emergency department, you are only seen in the order of how ill you are. An urgent care center can do a different pattern."
Daines still is not sure exactly what form it will take but says the state is ideally looking for a facility that would
see patients without an appointment, preferably operating 24 hours a day/seven days a week.
perform basic medical imaging, including x-rays.
perform minor procedures like sutures, incisions, cyst removal and splinting.
use electronic medical records.
be able to provide rapid transport to full-service emergency rooms to handle life-threatening conditions.
One of the four organizations to submit proposals Friday was Beth Israel Medical Center, which already runs a facility that provides primary and some of those urgent care services nearby on West 23rd Street for 24 hours a day.
"I think that we are uniquely poised, because of our location within the community, our association with our community, our common mission that we have shared with St. Vincent's for many years to be part of the community," said Dr. Harris Nagler, the president of Beth Israel Medical Center.
Patients said the fact that urgent care center is a 24/7 operation is obviously a major draw.
Ben Kurtz, a patient at Beth Israel's facility, did not want to have to wait in an ER to have some stitches removed that had become infected.
"I can come here anytime and they're always open and there's usually not too long of a wait," said Kurtz.
The state health commissioner said it may not be too long of a wait before a final decision is made on the fate of an urgent care center to replace St. Vincent's, a decision could come within a matter of weeks.
Meanwhile, as a $700 million debt forces St. Vincent's Hospital to close, the facility may be turned into luxury apartment buildings.
In 2008, executives were trying to pull the hospital out of financial trouble by making a deal to sell the property. Rudin Management was going to buy most of the campus for more than $300 million and turn it into luxury residential space.
St. Vincent's would have moved across the street and used the money to reduce debt and partly pay for new buildings.
The chief executive of Rudin Management said he still wants to develop the site and that a health care facility could be part of it.
Elsewhere, the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation held a rally outside Bellevue Hospital on Manhattan's East Side Friday, urging elected officials to save the city's hospitals and health services. They said the pending closure of St. Vincent's and other facilities led to a significant increase in demand for services at other hospitals.
"HHC is the largest health care safety net in our city. Now that we no longer have the Catholic safety net, the uninsured in New York in particular rely upon us heavily," said NYC HHC President Alan Aviles. "Last year, we served 450,000 uninsured patients. It's critically important that we maintain the solvency of the public hospital system."
Last week, the hospital's board voted to shut down inpatient services at the Greenwich Village hospital, after a six-month effort to save the institution.