St. Vincent's Hospital at risk of takeover

February 14, 2010 4:58:32 AM PST
St. Vincent Hospital, a major AIDS center, could be taken over by a New York medical group and stripped of its surgical and inpatient units if finances don't improve. The proposal was made to the cash-strapped Greenwich Village institution by Continuum Health Partners.

If the plan goes through, St. Vincent's would become a community health center, leaving the West Side of Lower Manhattan without a full-service hospital. The news turned what was supposed to be just a news conference into a rally with doctors and patients alike wanting to save the 160-old institution.

"St. Vincent's is the place we on the West Side, go in the middle of the night when something has gone wrong, and we are not going to let the state of New York close St. Vincent's down," Council Speaker Christine Quinn said.

The hospital is deep in debt by more than 300-million dollars, so the plan is Continuum Health Partners would assume control, shut it down, move operations elsewhere and great old St. Vincent's would basically become a clinic.

"We've always been here for the community. We here for HIV. We were here for 9/11. Now we're going to disappear? Something's very wrong with that picture. Very wrong," Pamela Lischin said.

Closing St. Vincent's would lead to patients being forced to hospitals miles away like Bellevue or Roosevelt at 58th and 10th.

"In no traffic at 4:00 in the morning, it's not a big deal, but in the middle of day with traffic, it's significant," Dr. Eric Legome said.

Other doctors were more blunt, saying the move will lead to death.

"I was here on 9/11 in the emergency room taking care of patients and to close this place is sinful. It's a sin," Dr. Christian Hirsch said.

Continuum says "Our proposal to St. Vincent was intended as an alternative to financial liquidation. If St. Vincent is able to continue to meet its mission on its own, they have our full support."

A takeover is far from a done deal. St. Vincent's chief executive officer, Henry Amoroso, said on Tuesday the hospital will work with its lenders and "emerge as a stronger healthcare system."