West View News
April 17, 2014
Goodbye St. Vincent’s, Hello Lenox Hill HealthPlex
By Alec Pruchnicki, MD
When St. Vincent’s Hospital was closed in 2010, the fate of the O’Toole building on the West Side of Seventh Avenue between 12th and 13th Streets was unclear. Soon, the building was acquired by the North Shore/Long Island Jewish (NS/LIJ) system to set up a free-standing emergency center without a connection to an in-patient hospital. This center, the Lenox Hill HealthPlex, is scheduled to open this summer and so WestView conducted a telephone interview with John Gupta, its executive director, and Dr. Eric Cruzen its medical director.
Both estimated that the new center will be able to see approximately 45,000 patients a year, and that about 10% of them might require transfer to a hospital, similar to other centers around the country and in The Bronx. The center will be able to handle many emergency room problems, including most laboratory and radiology tests, and have the capability for resuscitation and ventilator support, with two holding beds acting as the equivalent of hospital beds. Patients who require hospitalization and are stable will be transferred to either Lenox Hill Hospital or their hospital of choice, if possible. For unstable patients, transfers will be to the closest hospital, probably Beth Israel. The center will be staffed by experienced emergency room attending physicians, nurses, technicians, etc.
Outreach to the community has started with plans to coordinate with the nearby LGBT center, and Lenox Hill representatives have spoken to about 450 local physicians to publicize these news services and receive feedback on what additional services might be needed. There are plans to expand the emergency services and also include ambulatory surgery, rehabilitation, medical specialties, and homecare.
However, what will the center not be able to do? A Level I trauma center, a stroke center and full cardiac facilities, such as a catherization lab, all of which were present at St. Vincent’s, will not be available on site, but require transfer. There are no plans for expansion of the facility to become a full scale hospital, at least not at the present time. Could the facility expand to become a hospital? The first floor of the former O’Toole building is 30,000 square feet, and the building as a whole is about 160,000 square feet. By comparison, Downtown Hospital (now called Presbyterian Downtown) has about 320,000 square feet and is licensed to have 180 beds. Therefore, if an attempt is made to convert the entire building to a hospital it would be in the order of about 100 beds or less. This is similar to a proposal by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer (Westview, October 2013) that also mentioned possible funding for such a development. There is also the theoretical possibility that additional floors on the top of the present building could be constructed.
Presently, NS/LIJ is focusing on getting this center up and running. Any new developments in the future will probably have to wait until its performance can be evaluated. Yet, whenever a new hospital is discussed, it will have to be in an environment of strong community and political support and, of course, money.