By Nina Mandell
MANHATTAN — New York's top lawmakers are urging the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help save the near-bankrupt St. Vincent's Hospital in the West Village.
After earning criticism from St. Vincent’s nurses and doctors for not paying attention to the issue, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer joined Congressman Jerrold Nadler in sending a letter to HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan Monday warning of the dangers posed by eliminating certain services at the hospital.
“Closing St. Vincent’s Emergency Room and Level 1 Trauma Center would be devastating to the local community, and in the event of a catastrophe, would hamstring the city’s ability to cope," the letter stated. "The loss of this acute care facility would have a potential devastating impact to all the residents of New York City, but especially to those living on the West Side of Manhattan.”
Last week, Continuum Health Partners proposed taking over St. Vincent’s and shutting down its emergency room, inpatient beds and surgical services. Under the plan, the scaled-back center would focus on primary care and outpatient procedures.
"It is the only Level 1 Trauma Center below 59th Street and, needless to say, is an indispensable New York institution,” Nadler said.
After Continuum’s proposal was announced, the nurses union joined together to send mass mailings to elected officials seeking their support. Until Monday, the most active local politicians involved with the issue were Nadler, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.
Facing $700 million of debt, the hospital has hired consulting firm Grant Thornton to advise its restructuring plan in an attempt to save St. Vincent's from fiscal ruin, Crain’s New York Business reported on Monday.
“The Saint Vincent's board is behind Grant Thornton in helping steer our venerable institution through what is sure to be a difficult process so we can emerge as a provider of quality health care for the West Side of Manhattan,” Alfred Smith IV, chairman of Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Centers, said in a statement on Sunday.