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New Group Collecting Tales of Medical Trauma After St. Vincent's Closure

By DNAinfo Staff on August 2, 2010 8:05am

People walk by the entrance to St. Vincent's Hospital before it closed in April.
People walk by the entrance to St. Vincent's Hospital before it closed in April.
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Spencer Platt/Getty Images

By Tara Kyle

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MANHATTAN — Greenwich Village resident Jonathan Slaff knows firsthand about what it’s like to cope with medical emergencies after his local St. Vincent’s Hospital shut down — after he had to rush his teenage daughter all the way across town to treat a sudden anaphylactic reaction.

Slaff said the incident happened in the spring, shortly after St. Vincent's closed, when he and his daughter were home eating cherries and her throat began to close up.

Slaff, his wife and his daughter scrambled across town to Beth Israel Medical Center, in a cab that on another day might have been slowed by heavy traffic or road closures.

“I could see a combination of circumstances that she could have suffocated before we got to the ER,” Slaff said.

The close-call experience spurred the theater publicist to launch a new group to collect a depository of first-person testimonials of medical traumas in the aftermath of the St. Vincent's closure, in hopes of pressuring the city to open a new hospital in the Village.

“People’s experiences with health emergencies are too varied and nuanced to be represented in big statistics,” Slaff said.

Slaff’s new Fundraising Committee of the Coalition for a New Village Hospital will hold its first meeting on Monday night. He hopes that collecting stories, something he did once before while surveying artists on the economic impact of 9/11 for Downtown NYC!, will attract the attention of philanthropists willing to help bring a new hospital to the Village.

The new group’s formation comes at a time when Community Board 2, which represents the Village, is moving forward with plans to conduct a medical needs assessment of the lower West side.

That strategy has drawn the ire of many Village activists, who want nothing less than a new full-service hospital and believe the needs assessment will delay progress and potentially detract from that goal.

That tension has contributed to what Brad Hoylman, chair of CB2’s St. Vincent’s Omnibus Committee, acknowledged is a “combustible atmosphere,” at recent meetings, replete with raised voices.

Nonetheless, Hoylman expressed appreciation for the new fundraising group’s initiative, and hope that a solution would arise from the combined impact of Slaff's work and CB2’s survey of community needs.

“Anecdotal evidence is powerful and great, but we need to back it up with some data,” said Hoylman. “Hopefully all these efforts can coalesce around the goal that everyone shares, which is a great facility.”