Sunday, April 18, 2010

Requiem for 9/11's Hospital

Is this what CHANGE means?

Two weeks after politicians celebrated a health care bill passed, a 160 year-old hospital named St. Vincent's in New York City announced it would close, evicting every doctor, nurse and patient.

Dylan Thomas died here. Now so will his hospital. No rage against this dying of the light.

This was a hospital with a mission for the poor of New York.

For whom did the health care bill toll?

One less hospital.

* * *
We bail-out banks who have stolen from the public. Executives then used bail-out funds for bonuses, hoodwinking the invisible taxpayer.

We bail-out car companies whose arrogance and greed knew no boundaries, hoodwinking the invisible taxpayer.

Lately, New York’s been considering a bailout for the OTB (betting facilities for gambling).

But a bail-out for the honest living of saving lives? Unheard of.

We pay for war, but we can’t pay for a hospital saving lives.

Flags will be taken down

* * *

I’m starting to think you have to be an insanely horrible intelligent financial thief to get a bail-out.

* * *

"Poets, writers, artists, winos, the poor and the working-class" came here. Beat poet Gregory Corso was born here. New York Mayor Ed Koch was rescued here.

I’ll personally never forget St. Vincent’s on 9/11. St. Vincent’s was there, outside a cloud of debris. The place to save the many injured and lost.

9/11 Missing Persons Wall at St Vincent's

Bus shelter across St. Vincent's. 9/11 Missing persons posters.

There's no loyalty. Not even for this.

You remember the Miracle on the Hudson? That cold shocked crew and every passenger came here after their plane landed on the river.

There's no gratitude. Not even for this.

You remember Titanic? This was the place for her survivors in 1912.

It's a fading memory.

* * *

There have been great fires and epidemics of cholera and tuberculosis in New York. New Yorkers came here.

When no one knew what AIDS was, St. Vincent’s came to the forefront, among first hospitals to help. A pioneer.

Who will save now?

* * *

Now 1000 doctors will be out of work. 300 medical students will be out of internships. More lives will be lost by the second, by the minute, by the train stop, to get to Bellevue crosstown, or Roosevelt uptown. That would be 17 streets north of Times Square.

758 beds will be lost on the border of Greenwich Village and Chelsea.

New York’s finest emergency care, gone.

* * *

The last baby was just delivered here on April 15, 2010. Hospital diapers were given away. Better for a family than a bankruptcy receiver.

Having a baby? Got HIV? Having an emergency? Got cancer? Experiencing heart failure? Having a nervous breakdown?

Go somewhere else.

I always knew where St. Vincent’s was. I’ve never been by Bellevue crosstown.

* * *

St. Vincent’s drowned in $700 million in debt. Rising health care costs was one culprit. Undercutting insurance companies another. Extra charity didn't help. Administration was questionable.

Gone is the mission of patient-focused health care, and that extra special mission to provide care for the poor and disenfranchised. A mission that lasted 160 years.

The wealthy don’t want to come to this hospital anymore to help pay its bills. Even Susan Sarandon said so.


"Change we can believe in."

Gone is my belief in what CHANGE actually means. It’s whatever politicians say yes/no to. It’s no to St. Vincent’s.

The homeless came from all over New York to get treated here. Now you are hospital-less.

This was also Chinatown’s hospital – gone. So are your medical interpreters. Can’t speak English to save your life…too bad.

Need chemo? Go further crosstown. Make your way back.

Are you elderly? Walk far.

No more acupuncture and Chinese food. Gone.

This place even cared for your pets while you were hospitalized. Gone.

* * *

This might sound callous but that’s exactly what it took to close St. Vincent’s down.

Yet somehow we had a greater heart and bigger wallet for banks, wars, car companies and horse racing.

Yearly, 62,000 emergency visits, 1,800 births, 22,000 hospital admissions and 263,000 outpatient visits will have to make do with other hospitals already full.

The New York Times reported: “Officials blamed a high rate of poor and uninsured patients as well as cuts in Medicare and Medicaid and the hospital’s inability to negotiate favorable contracts with health insurance companies, claiming their fees were 30 percent below the market rate.”

Is this CHANGE?

When Abigail Yael Jancu was born in St. Vincent’s on April 15, 2010, hospital elevator buttons were taped down, entire floors already closed. The birthing ward was completely empty.

When a hospital dies, there's one last birth.

Every minute, one more person was leaving. Nurses, saving lives, making lives, together for decades, were saying goodbye to each other, unemployed.

1 comment:

Mary said...

It's disgraceful. I'm so terribly sad.