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Health Care Advocates and OWS Protesters Plan March to St. Vincent's Site

By Andrea Swalec | October 26, 2011 12:16pm
Demonstrators assembled outside buildings of the former St. Vincent's Hospital in May 2011.
Demonstrators assembled outside buildings of the former St. Vincent's Hospital in May 2011.
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Facebook/Coalition for a New Village Hospital

MANHATTAN — Health-care advocates from Occupy Wall Street and a group pushing for a new Village hospital will join forces Wednesday to march to the the former St. Vincent's Hospital site in Greenwich Village.  

The groups will assemble at Zuccotti Park at 4 p.m. to "share personal struggles with [the] health care system," according to a statement issued by the Coalition for a New Village Hospital. 

Participants will then demonstrate outside the 1 Liberty Plaza offices of Empire BlueCross BlueShield and the 110 Fifth Ave. offices of Medicaid/Medicare provider WellCare.

Yetta Kurland, head of the coalition, and longtime St. Vincent's doctor Dr. David Kaufman will speak at the demonstration about the health-care and insurance industries, said Paul Newell, a member of the coalition's steering committee.

"The fact is that the health-insurance industry in this country has been focused on providing health insurance to wealthier Americans and not so much to the 40 million Americans who are uninsured," he said about the reasons for the teach-in and march. 

"St. Vincent's took more than 40 percent of its patients from Medicaid and is being replaced by luxury condos. If that's not an example of resources being taken from the 99 percent and given to the 1 percent, I don't know what is," Newell added. 

After 5:30 p.m., organizers will host a "teach-in" at the former St. Vincent's, at Seventh Avenue at West 12th Street.

"Don't allow our hospital to be turned into luxury condos for the 1 percent," the group's statement reads. "Stand up. Fight back. Teach in."

Volunteer doctors and nurses at Occupy Wall Street have been caring for protesters who have not had health care for years because they have no jobs or no health insurance.

While they originally thought they would be treating pepper spray and other protest-sparked injuries, they found themselves treating chronic conditions such as athsma, diabetes and epilepsy.

A plan by Rudin Management that is currently pending approval would create luxury housing and retail space on the former St. Vincen't site.

On #Occupy St. Vincent's Facebook event page, 33 people said they would attend the march, as of Wednesday morning. 

Occupy Wall Street's health-care working group educates people about "universal single-payer health care … funded by a tax on Wall Street," according to its website

The Coalition for a New Village Hospital has for years advocated for the return of a full-service hospital to Greenwich Village. 

On Oct. 6, the New York State Public Health and Health Planning Council approved North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System's proposal to create a facility known as the Lenox Hill Hospital Comprehensive Care Center at the site of the former St. Vincent's. 

The center would consist of a 24-hour emergency department, imaging center, ambulatory surgery facility and 24-hour ambulance services. The Coalition for a New Village Hospital opposes the current plan.