By Ben Fractenberg
WEST VILLAGE — The fate of a comprehensive care center set to take over the former St. Vincent's Hospital site is still in flux, but the shuttered hospital has already taken steps to force out dozens of doctors who still retain offices at the former medical facility.
Doctors with private practices in the O'Toole Building at Seventh Avenue and West 12th Street were stunned to receive letters from St. Vincent's warning them that their leases were suspended and that they would have to vacate the premises by the end of May, DNAinfo has learned.
The letters were dated March 10, the same day the hospital announced it was selling to North Shore-LIJ.
"Please note that we will be required to take action in the Bankruptcy Court to assure that you timely vacate the Unit absent your cooperation, so please provide us with advance notice of your expected departure date," the letter warns.
Doctors blasted the sudden eviction.
"I think two months notice after an 11-year [occupancy] is outrageous," said Dr. Theresa Tretter, who has an office on the fifth floor of the building. "Several thousand patients are affected without warning. There isn't enough space around in the village for all of us."
Some of the doctors in the building said they've begun banding together to try to find shared new space.
Dr. Albert DeFabritus, who has been in the building since 1983, said there was no guarantee they will be able to find a location big enough.
He added that leaving his patients in the lurch would be "a nightmare to think about."
A spokeswoman for the former St. Vincent's Hospital defended the letters, saying the doctors had been given more than enough notice.
"When St. Vincent's filed for bankruptcy last year the doctors wishing to stay in the O'Toole Building were given month to month lease arrangements with 30-day notice periods. When we announced the sale of the property, we gave them a notice of 2 ½ months," the hospital said in a statement.
"St. Vincent's is working with a few of the doctors who stated that they need a little more time," the statement continued.
At least one doctors who received the letters told DNAinfo he asked for an extension along with other doctors, but had not yet heard back.
"They did not give us any information about anything," said Dr. Peter Sollaccio, who said he has been practicing in the building for about 20 years.
Sollaccio said he had no idea St. Vincent's had found a buyer until he read about it in the news. He worries he will not have enough time to open up another office before end of May.
"The rentals in the area have skyrocketed," said Sollaccio, who added he currently pays a little more than $3,000 a month but said he can't find space in the area for less than $5,000 per month.
He said if he can't get an extension at the current location or find another location by May 31, he'll have to refer his hundreds of patients to other doctors.
Doctors and a coalition working to restore a full-service hospital to the St. Vincent's facility called the notice to vacate premature, saying the North Shore-LIJ deal to create an comprehensive care center has yet to be finalized.
Under the proposed sale, which is still pending court approval, North Shore-LIJ will run a new comprehensive care medical facility after a $100 million investment. The proposed facility would provide emergency services, but would not admit patients overnight. People suffering major trauma would be moved to another hospital after being stabilized.
In addition to housing at least two dozen private practice doctors, the O'Toole Building is also home to two HIV clinics which took over when St. Vincent's went bankrupt — one run by Mount Sinai Medical Center, and the other run by St. Luke's-Roosevelt Comprehensive Care Center.
The Mount Sinai HIV clinic, which cares for 83 percent of the former St. Vincent's outpatient clients, according to their website, said it was already planning to move out regardless of the letter.
Mount Sinai spokesman Ian Michaels said its HIV clinic would move out of O'Toole some time after the end of May, adding that they were looking to stay in the area "with no interruption of patient services."
A St. Luke's-Roosevelt spokesman said they were also already planning to relocate later in the year to a location at West 17th Street.
St. Vincent's closed on April 30, after being opened for 160 years.
"We, the doctors, kept the hospital alive for so many years," said Sollaccio. "In the end, they [St. Vincent's] did nothing for us."