By Tara Kyle
MUNICIPAL DISTRICT — Former St. Vincent's hospital staff moved a step closer Monday to finding out why the Greenwich Village institution collapsed when a judge scheduled a hearing to listen arguments that the health department should be forced to release financial documents.
Attorneys Yetta Kurland and Thomas Shanahan will appear at Manhattan Supreme Court on Sep. 8 to ask for records that they believe track the excessive expenditures of St. Vincent's management in the months before it closed.
The lawyers have filed a suit on behalf of St. Vincent's staff that alleges that management drove the hospital into the ground, threw away $300,000 on a golf outing and spent $10 million annually on executive salaries.
Representatives for St. Vincent's took issue with these claims, asserting that the bankruptcy and closure were both transparent porcesses.
"There appears to be a blatant distortion of the facts," representatives wrote in a statement. "For 160 years, St. Vincent’s has focused on acting in a manner that is best for our patients and the community. While we have had to make many difficult decisions, that obligation hasn’t changed."
Kurland said her Coalition for a New Village Hospital has been denied requests to examine St. Vincent’s closure documents, which were filed on Feb. 17.
“We’ve gotten a lot of information from folks anecdotally, but we’re not getting the information we need from the Department of Health,” Kurland said at a press conference. “The only way we will have the answer to these serious questions is if we get this information.”
Eileen Dunn, a 25-year-employee of St. Vincent's, told DNAinfo that advocates have "repeatedly" filed requests to the Department of Health requesting closure documents, with the most recent going out on Monday morning.
“This is a sad, sad day for me,” said Dunn. “We need some transparency from the Department of Health.
The lawsuit also claims that the $1 billion in debts that led to the closing of St. Vincent’s were not all related to the operations of the hospital. Hundreds of millions in debts transferred from other medical centers were used to exaggerate the debt, according to the lawsuit.
Among other attendees at the press conference, held in front of Manhattan Supreme Court Monday morning, was Chelsea resident Adam Stottman, 50.
"It's a travesty," said Stottman. "The community is shellshocked."
The Department of Health did not immediately return calls for comment.