Adios St. Vincent’s

The Second Essential Scary Truth

160 years ago, four nuns opened a clinic at 11th Street and 7th Avenue South in the Greenwich Village section of Manhattan to treat the victims of a Cholera outbreak. From such a simple beginning arose St. Vincent’s Medical Center, internationally renowned, locally infamous and always-on duty for New Yorkers everywhere.

As of the open of business today, St. Vincent’s is no more. The last general hospital in New York City has succumbed to bankruptcy after months of argument and over a decade of trying to get the residents of the neighborhood to agree on an expansion plan that quite possibly may have saved the hospital.

This has created a problem for the lower west side of Manhattan. The nearest Trauma center is now at 28th Street and 1st Avenue at Bellevue Hospital – over 2 miles way.

Mayor Bloomberg is either smarmy or stoical, depending on your politics.

The city deployed extra ambulances to Manhattan’s lower West Side to bring emergency cases to other hospitals; two vehicles were stationed near St. Vincent’s in case someone mistakenly comes for care.

Manhattan’s Lenox Hill Hospital is getting more than $9 million in state money to open a 24-hour urgent care facility in the neighborhood, but it’s not clear when.

“It’s very sad. I wish the hospital could stay open. But the bottom line is, it’s not going to,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Friday on his weekly radio show.

“Lenox Hill has talked about … having an acute care facility,” he said. “And that’s one of the dangers: If people think you can get immediate triage needed for an emergency, like a stroke or a heart attack, and go there and find they can’t do it. …” (AP)

St. Vincent’s treated survivors of the Titanic’s sinking, Lou Reed’s various addictions and various people injured in the 9/11 attacks. Dylan Thomas died in the hospital on November 9, 1953. It was at the forefront of the AIDS epidemic. Plus it had, arguably, the fastest emergency room I ever visited.

In December of 1991, I walked into St. Vincent’s with three novels, two pens, a notebook, two magazines and a blanket. I was ready for a long stay to get a tetanus shot after I stepped on a piece of metal and drove it straight into my left heel. The joint was crowded with burned cooks from nearby restaurants, those who lost a fight in the various old boozers that have since vanished and various junkies on the nod. Every five minutes or an ambulance came in with a shooting, stabbing or heart attack victim. It took me 20 minutes to see a triage nurse.

I explained the nature of my complaint to the nurse. Once she ascertained the incident between my heel and the metal occurred earlier in the day, she made sure the wound wasn’t infecting. She then dispensed with taking my vitals and gave me a tetanus shot in my left shoulder.

“Clean the wound daily,” she told me while I was putting my sweater back on.

My total time in the St. Vincent’s Emergency Room that busy night in December was 27 minutes.

Fare thee well, St. Vincent’s Medical Center, you will be missed.

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