Saturday, July 31, 2010

Update on St. Vincent's Hospital

NYS Department of Health commissioner Dr. Richard Daines needs to do the right thing.

What does a ‘‘needs assessment’’ mean for us in our efforts to get a hospital at the site of St. Vincent’s ?

First, although the efforts are well intentioned, some have been working to have a ‘‘needs assessment’’ done to prove to the New York State Department of Health that we deserve a hospital in the Lower West Side of Manhattan. But if you look at the law, it is the NYS Department of Health, which needs to prove to us that we don’t need a hospital – not the community that needs to prove to them that we do need a hospital.

We should not be shifting the responsibility away from the NYS Department of Health, but rather pushing them to do the right thing – and remedy what we see as a serious breach in New York State law and a grave threat to public health and safety in Lower Manhattan.

Not only was the hospital not been closed in a safe manner, but the NYS Department of Health is required to continue the services that the hospital provided or go through a formalized procedure to determine that the services are not needed, which would include public input and public notice.

Why is it important to acknowledge that it was a violation of New York State law to shut St. Vincent’s down without a ‘‘closure plan ?’’

Because, according to the law, the closure plan needed first to be approved by the NYS Department of Health, so that it ensured safety not just in the way it was closed, but in the aftermath, including safeguarding records and ensuring continuing services. The closure plan isn’t a thing of the past, it affects community members now, including access to their medical records, and it entitles our community to continued health and medical services.

What have we done to get a new hospital ?

At the City level, after pressure from residents of the Lower West Side, Community Board 2 has passed a resolution that confirms that they will not allow a change in zoning or use for the hospital facility.

This will stop developers from attempting to convert this space into more luxury residential property. Also, we are delighted to read in a recent letter to the Chelsea Now newspaper that New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn “will continue our push for a full service hospital here.” The Community Board and Speaker Quinn are making clear, as powerful parts of the ULURP process, that they will block any attempts to put anything other than a hospital at the site of St. Vincent’s.

What do we still need to do ?

At the State level, we must put pressure on the NYS Department of Health and on its commissioner, Richard F. Daines, M.D, to comply with the law. New York State Senator Tom Duane has gone on record as saying a hospital is achievable, and Assemblymember Richard Gottfried has also pledged his support. Sign our petition to add your voice to this important cause.

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