St. Vincent’s Hospital and Medical Center

All good things must come to an end but why?

Last week the Board of Directors at St. Vincent’s Hospital and Medical Center decided that they would close the hospital due to an overwhelming financial debt. I was a surgical intern and resident at St. Vincent’s from 1995-1997. I transferred to Cabrini Medical Center in July of 1997 where I completed my medical residency and became Chief Resident. As an Attending physician, I maintained privileges at both Cabrini and St. Vincent’s. In 2005, I was made Director of Clinical Services of HIV at Cabrini. Two years later, Cabrini closed it’s doors due to financial problems. It was heartbreaking to watch a hospital close, see patients cry and employees lose their jobs. It was hard to say good-bye to my fellow doctors, the employees and patients who had to find alternative hospital.

Both Cabrini and St. Vincent’s are considered Catholic hospitals. Cabrini was run by the Sisters of Charity, which answered to the Pope. St. Vincent’s is part of the Arch Diocese and is also run by the Sisters of Charity.

So why do hospitals close?

St. Vincent’s debt is said to be more than 700 million dollars. I couldn’t speculate how that debt occurred. I imagine that Catholic charity hospitals lose a great deal of money by treating uninsured patients. Most people don’t understand healthcare. The business of healthcare is confusing to me and I’m a doctor. I do know that when St. Vincent’s closes we will be losing a level one trauma center, the only one in lower West Manhattan. The only other one is on the East Side at Beth Israel, which is where I will be admitting patients.

But there is more to it than losing a level one trauma center. St. Vincent’s is a landmark. It was the hospital where survivors from the Titanic were treated. The poet, Edna St. Vincent Malay was named after St. Vincent’s. As an HIV provider, I think of St. Vincent’s as the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980’s. It was the go to hospital after the 911 attack. Now it will be just a memory. When I walk through the Village in years to come, I will look at the spot where St. Vincent’s existed and tell my nephews and niece, “See that Wal-Mart or see that high-rise condo? That use to be a hospital where your Uncle Frank did his residency.”

A friend told me that I’m the black widow of hospitals because everyone that I’ve gotten privileges at since graduation has closed. I hope no one tells Beth Israel.


One Comment

  1. Posted April 12, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    It is amazing how every thing is changing or has changed. I’ve been in Manhattan less than 20 years and it isn’t even the same city I moved into it seems…

    The end of an era, that’s for sure. I wonder what will happen… Time will tell…

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