By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — New York Downtown Hospital isn't just for sick people anymore.
Officials held an official opening ceremony Friday for the hospital's $7.5 million Wellness & Prevention Center, which aims to treat people before they wind up needing more serious treatment.
"Our mission should really be to keep people out of the hospital, to keep them healthy," said Dr. Laura Forese, chief medical officer at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, a partner of Downtown Hospital. "This center contributes to that goal: maintaining health."
The 10,000-square-foot center, which opened earlier this year and is already seeing 1,600 patients a month, uses state-of-the-art diagnostic tools to screen for cancer and detect the early signs of heart disease. It is the first of its kind at any hospital in the city.
Dr. Warren Licht, chief medical officer at Downtown Hospital, said the goal is to create a more welcoming environment for patients, a place where doctors look at the entire person, not just a specific body part or ailment.
With patients' comfort in mind, the waiting areas feature plush green armchairs. The hallways are lined with artistic photos of lower Manhattan and each examining room has a flat-screen TV to make time pass more quickly.
"You feel more like you're in a boutique law firm than a doctor's office," Licht said.
The center was built on top of Downtown Hospital's new emergency wing, which offered extra space for needed community services, said hospital CEO Jeffrey Menkes.
Funding for the center came from the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., a New York State grant, and Moody's Foundation.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said the new wing opened not a moment too soon.
"As our community continues to grow, the need for high-quality medical care in this neighborhood is greater than ever," Silver said.