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9/11 Hospital Facing Financial Trouble

Wed, 01/27/2010 - 6:19am

St. Vincent's Hospital, a major AIDS and trauma center, could be taken over by a powerful nonprofit New York hospital system and stripped of its surgical and inpatient units if its finances don't improve. However, “if St. Vincent is able to continue to meet its mission on its own, they have our full support,” Continuum Health Partners said in a statement Tuesday.

If Continuum's proposal to take control of the cash-strapped Greenwich Village institution goes through, St. Vincent's would become a community health center with ambulatory care, forfeiting surgical services and inpatient beds within about three months. That would leave Lower Manhattan's west side without a full-service hospital.

“St. Vincent's is an outpost of health care on the West Side,” said state Sen. Tom Duane, D-NY, who represents the area. “You can't control what kind of emergency treatment people need. Remember what happened on 9/11?” The 727-bed hospital, founded 160 years ago, was the closest hospital to the World Trade Center after the terrorist attack.

The other nearest medical facilities are on Manhattan's East Side, including the New York Downtown Hospital, the Beth Israel Medical Center and the Bellevue Hospital Center. Roosevelt Hospital is almost 40 blocks uptown. But a takeover is far from a done deal.

The proposal to St. Vincent's board was submitted at its request and intended as an alternative to financial liquidation, Continuum said in its statement. St. Vincent's is hundreds of millions of dollars in debt, and has defaulted on its Chapter 11 reorganization plan after missing a payment to a trust fund linked to medical malpractice cases.

Henry J. Amoroso, chief executive of St. Vincent Catholic Medical Centers, blames his institution's failing finances on a series of state budget cuts in the past two years as well as the recession. In a statement Tuesday, Amoroso said he believes the facility will work with its lenders, GE Capital and TD Bank, and “emerge as a stronger healthcare system” for the hundreds of thousands of patients treated there each year.

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