Editorial : St. Vincent’s Hospital closing and the collapse of public health before Coronavirus
Transcript of a Video Editorial
By The Editorial Board
Hi, I’m across the street from the old St. Vincent’s Hospital on 7th Ave. South between 12th and 13th Street — err, between 12th and 11th Street. Behind me, as you can see, is the old O’Toole Building that was taken over by Lenox Hill Hospital.
And there, on 12th Street, is one of those refrigerator trucks, which is very sad and depressing to have to see. These things keep popping up outside of all the hospitals or old hospital sites in New York City, where they are putting the dead bodies of people, who died from the Coronavirus.
And it’s funny being here. I remember when all of us were trying to save St. Vincent’s Hospital, before it got turned into luxury condos. Here they are, behind me. This is a $1 billion luxury condominium and townhouse complex that Rudin development corporation built. He couldn’t build this on his own ; he needed help. He needed help from Mayor Bloomberg and City Council speaker Christine Quinn, at the time.
But he also needed help out of Community Board 2 in Manhattan. At the time, it was headed by Brad Hoylman, who is now a New York State Senator for Chelsea.
It’s funny to see this refrigerator truck here, and I say funny, because there’s irony. When we were fighting to save St. Vincent’s Hospital and then fighting to save the zoning on the complex — on the compound — on the site, so that the site could only be used for a hospital, the people, who came and testified in front of Community Board 2 at the time, when Rudin was filing his ULURP application, people in the community complained about hearing all the non-stop ambulance sirens. They said it was too distressing, and it created noise pollution. I’d like to hear those people complain about a refrigerator truck now holding dead bodies on the side street in the West Village. What do they think about that ?
Look at how they first complained about ambulance sirens and now what are they having to put up with, because they were so short-sighted. But it wasn’t just the people, who were short-sighted. It was our political leadership, too.
And as much as blame should be laid at the feet of Mayor Bloomberg, at the time, and Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and now State Senator Brad Hoylman, it was also the Governor. Although, at the time it was David Paterson, it was really Andrew Cuomo pulling a lot of strings, because it was right before he became the Governor.
And if there is one thing that Andrew Cuomo excels at it’s at pulling from behind the scenes. I’m sorry if I can’t speak very clearly.
Also, I want to say none of these hospital closings that took place over the last many years in New York — they couldn’t have been possible unless 1199 went along with this shit, too. So, when I talk about who’s responsible, people need to go back and look at what did Patrick Gaspard do, what did Jennifer Cunningham do, and what did Kevin Finnegan do ? They were all respectively, one after another, the political directors of 1199. What did they do to stand up to the political pressure to close so many hospitals in New York City and in the rest of New York State ?
So, when people go back and look at how did we end up with a pandemic that is killing more people in New York City than anywhere else in the world, we have to look at the collapse of public health.
St. Vincent’s Hospital was a public charity hospital. It was run by the Catholic Church, and it had a mission to serve the poor. And I remember when we were working to save St. Vincent’s, I used to speak to one of the head nurses at the hospital. And she told me all the good that the hospital did. They used to take in homeless people, not that needed medical help ; they just needed a shower ; they needed clean clothes. And St. Vincent’s Hospital provided that to them. They needed food, and if the hospital had it, they would provide people with them.
There was a rape crisis —- I’m sorry, there was a rape crisis treatment center also. The hospital also provided a lot of outpatient support to people, who came into the hospital. One of the things that St. Vincent’s was known for was providing patient-centered care. And a lot of that was done through outpatient services. The hospital had staff that went above and beyond to make sure that people got taken care of. That kind of healthcare system doesn’t exist in New York City, except when it’s provided as —- with a charity mission, where people were treated with dignity and respect and when healthcare was provided as something people had a right to access.
That’s a different standard of healthcare than you have right now, when it’s driven by profit.
Anyway, I happened to be down here ; it’s very cold and windy. And I’m using a scarf as a mask, which I had to take off in order to do this video. I’m going home now, and I’ll be putting my scarf back around my face.