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First Look Inside 24/7 Emergency Room Across From Shuttered St. Vincent's

 The new Lenox Hill HealthPlex plans to open in mid-July on Seventh Avenue, directly across from the former site of St. Vincent's Hospital.
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WEST VILLAGE — A new emergency room is opening next week across from the former site of St. Vincent's Hospital, bringing 24-hour medical care back to the neighborhood.

The Lenox Hill HealthPlex, at 30 Seventh Ave. between 12th and 13th streets, will launch July 15 with its own ambulance and facilities equipped to treat psychiatric as well as medical emergencies, a spokeswoman said.

The new medical center, which will have one ambulance, is set up to serve patients with a wide range of ailments and will treat all those who come in regardless of their insurance or ability to pay, said Eric Cruzen, the medical director.

In addition to emergency services, the medical center will also house specialists on its upper floors starting in 2015, including orthopedic doctors and x-ray, CAT scan and ultrasound facilities.

Several nurses who used to work at St. Vincent's will return to HealthPlex, along with a doctor who was trained at St. Vincent's and the head of the cardiology department, who did his entire residency there.

Community Board 2 chairman David Gruber said he welcomed the new facility.

"It's much more than just an emergency room. It's really a tremendously equipped and staffed complex and I think it will handle much of what we need handled in the Village," Gruber said. "It's not a substitute for the hospital, but it's very, very good."

But some community members aren't satisfied with the facility, which they said does not replace the full-service St. Vincent's Hospital that anchored the block for 160 years.

"If you're asking me if this is better than what we've had in the last four years then obviously it's better than having no medical facility there whatsoever," said Yetta Kurland, an attorney for the Coalition for a New Village Hospital, which formed in the wake of St. Vincent's closure. "But if you're asking me if it's sufficient for the community, I would say absolutely not."

"The community needs a full-service hospital," Kurland added.

Kurland cited several recent accidents in the area, including a crash that killed an MTA bus driver on 14th Street in February.

"My understanding at this juncture is the facility wouldn't be able to perform many of the life-saving services that a full hospital would, like if someone were to need surgery for a heart attack or a stent put in for a stroke," Kurland said.

Heart attack and stroke victims can be treated and stabilized at HealthPlex but will have to be transported to a hospital elsewhere in the city for further treatment, said Alex Hellinger, the center's executive director.

"If it's a clot, they can provide medicine to break it up," Hellinger said. "The important thing is saving that brain tissue."

"What matters is how soon you get your care started," Cruzen added.

The facility will be able to handle up to 45,000 emergency visits per year, according to a spokeswoman.

When St. Vincent's closed in 2010, it was taking in more than 60,000 emergency room visits per year, though community members and hospital staff said the hospital was plagued with long wait times and was often being used by people who weren't experiencing emergencies.

"We're anxious to see it open," Gruber said.