R.I.P. St. Vincent's Hospital

A murder in the Village when downtown's guardian goes under

The day before the nurses and doctors rallied, several local politicians, led by City Council speaker Christine Quinn, showed up across from the hospital. All were angry at the turn of events, but they had already adopted a fall-back position: that an "urgent care" facility be maintained at the site. This sounded a lot like an emergency room, which is the way some papers reported it. Actually, it's a big step down from an ER. It's closer to what's called a "Doc in a Box": a retail facility to treat problems like flu or mild fractures. Trauma victims, like the kids stabbed aboard the No. 2 train last month who were rushed to St. Vincent's, will have to go elsewhere. They'll either be trucked through uptown traffic to Roosevelt on 59th Street, or cross-town to Bellevue.

"New Yorkers don't know the difference yet, but they will," warned Dr. Charles Carpati, a 21-year hospital veteran who heads its intensive care unit. Last week, he said, a young man having a severe asthma attack was rushed in—a mechanical ventilator saved his life. "He would've died," said Carpati. "That's not hyperbole."

On Thursday, nurses in their red smocks watched as tourist buses fought taxis for inches of space on Seventh Avenue. "Can you imagine being in crisis and having to get through that?" asked John Hiltunen, a 20-year hospital veteran.

The unkindest cut
Caleb Ferguson
The unkindest cut

Christine Stanfield, who lives on the Village's far west side, wheeled her son, Porter, a year and a half old, in a stroller to the rally. She placed a sign around his legs: "Born Here," it read. "Their neonatal services are amazing," she said. In January, she raced him to the ER after he fell off a slide in the Bleecker Street playground. "I don't know where else I would've gone," she said, shaking her head. The hospital's closing astonished her. "I've seen so many new condos go up, so many new, well-off residents. I don't understand how the population density goes up, the tax base goes up, and the neighborhood can't afford a hospital. It doesn't make sense."

It does not. What it does evoke is the line by a famous deceased patient: "Rage, rage against the dying of the light."


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