Remarks from Dr. David L. Kaufman at the Rally to Demand a Hospital
West Village, New York City, April 30, 2011.
Well here we are again, this time to sadly honor this one year anniversary. Luckily it’s a gorgeous day---very reassuring to know that the Bankruptcy Court and the Rudins can’t also control the weather. They can’t “fix” that…
What I want to talk about today will be lots of numbers, numbers that can rule and ruin our lives. And I want to emphasize that every statistic I give comes from the US Census, the NYS DOH or NSLIJ. These facts can tell many stories, and numbers can have great but simple power and speak the clear truth. So stay with me and I’ll try not to go too fast. Oh, and there will be a quiz on the numbers at the end.
365 days ago Greenwich Village and the entire Lower Westside was plunged into a health crisis. For 52 weeks we have had no easily accessible emergency services, trauma services, hospital beds, none of the broad range of medical, surgical, psychiatric, and ambulatory services that St. Vincent’s provided to all in need. Over the last 12 months, the 61,394 people previously cared for in the St. Vincent’s Emergency Room have had to travel through traffic one to five miles in trips lasting twenty to sixty minutes to get emergency services where they have been forced to wait on average over five hours before being seen and then, if admitted, often wait another 12-24 hours for a bed to become available. How many people never made it to an ER? How many suffered in pain while waiting for care? How many had more damage to their hearts or brains because of delays in transport, triage, and management? How many died?
Last year, 70% of the patients admitted to St. Vincent’s Hospital came from the Emergency Department. Let me crystal clear here: that means in 2009, an incredible 13,572 people were so sick, so acutely ill that they required IMMEDIATE admission for treatment of their heart attacks, strokes, pneumonias, perforated organs, injuries, etc. What has happened to those 13,572 patients over the last 52 weeks? Does anyone really know?
In 2009, St. Vincent’s hospital admitted a total of 19,388 patients. In 2009, St. Vincent’s Hospital had an average daily census of 340 patients. That means 340 people from our community were sick enough to be hospitalized every single day of the year. Where have all those patients gone? How far have they had to travel, how badly has their care been delayed and disrupted?
Of course, the NYS Dept Of Health, the NSLIJ hospital system, the Rudin Organization, our elected politicians—Cuomo, Bloomberg, Duane, Gottfried, Quinn and the rest—our elected leaders supposedly responsible for our community’s health and welfare---of course THEY don’t have any of those answers. Suddenly their statistics machine is broken, their multimillion dollar PR operations are eerily silent. No answers. Nothing. What has happened to the concept of holding officials, be they appointed, elected, corporate or non-profit, responsible and accountable?
Instead of answers, our community has been supremely insulted. These people are offering us an urgent care center, a doc in the box on steroids, a turbocharged clinic. They further insult us by calling it an Emergency Room. And then, talking to us like we are ill mannered children, they insist we are lucky to even get this, that it’s better than nothing. I will not, again, go through all the reasons they are wrong, all the ways they are deceiving us and all the life threatening risks of their generous offer. Read the flyers, read Westview, and then think about this: can their Comprehensive Care Center, their free standing emergency room treat 61,394 people a year, can it house 19,388 patients sick enough to require inpatient care, can it deliver the life saving, critical care that 13,572 poor souls required in the emergency room in 2009. These are not rhetorical questions, these are not melodramatic questions-no, no, these are life and death questions and the lack of answers, the utter disregard of these facts puts my life and yours in danger every day.
OK, time to move on to a different set of numbers. Are you ready? OK, here we go. According to the data collected by NSLIJ, the Lower Westside and the so called primary service area of St. Vincent’s hospital has a population of 385, 000 and the hospital had about 380 operational beds. 385,000—I want you to remember that number and also keep in mind that it does not even include the estimated 500,000 additional commuters and tourists that come to the Lower Westside every day. 385,000.
Now, we going to take five mile trip to the Upper East Side and East Harlem, an area geographically defined by the Harlem River to the North, the East River, south to 59th street and west to 5th Ave. The population of those two communities totals 325,286 people, 60,000 people less than ours. What do all those people do for healthcare—what are the hospital and Emergency Room resources in their community? Hold onto your hats and try not to faint as I read you these statistics:
· NY Presbyterian Cornell Weill Hospital –867 beds and full service emergency room
· Mt. Sinai Hospital—1171 beds and a full service emergency room
· Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center—437 beds and a full service emergency room
· Metropolitan Hospital—341 beds and –you guessed it—a full service emergency room
· Hospital for Special Surgery –172 beds and limited emergency services
· And finally, last but certainly not least, we have Lenox Hill Hospital, NSLIJ’s latest acquisition with 652 beds and another full service emergency room
Can anyone guess how many beds that adds up to? Are you ready? 3,940. Yup, that’s 3,940 beds for 325,286 people or one bed per 82 persons. Oh, and I almost forgot, FIVE full service emergency rooms with all the bells and whistles, all the medical and surgical backup required to do the job right.
What do we have? NOTHING. We have zero beds for 385,000 people or close to a million if you include the commuters and tourists. I want to make sure you all got that: it’s zero bed per 385,000 as compared to one bed per 82. In some circles, that would be called criminal policy and planning. I suspect most third world countries have better bed ratios than zero per 385,000.
So what can be done? We are up against a government mindset that insists New York State has too many hospital beds, that the only way to solve our financial healthcare problems is to close beds and hospitals. Let’s just assume that the DOH and the so called healthcare experts are correct. How do they implement this decision, how do they get rid of beds? It’s a fair question and one would think that experts like these would approach the challenge rationally and carefully. But, the utterly astonishing fact is, they do not. They give no thought to the distribution of beds—all they care about is shutting them down. Community needs, bed per person ratios, socio-economic issues are all irrelevant. How else explain the behavior of a our city and state officials, of that guardian of your health and mine, the DOH, -- how else explain their decision to leave all 385,000 of us with NO hospital, NO Emergency Room, No critical services, while five miles north of here there are 4000 beds for 60,000 less people? Incredible and shameful.
So here is my proposal. Let’s get rational, let’s act responsibly, let’s plan intelligently, and let’s all work together—our community, the Rudins, NSLIJ, our elected and appointed officials—let’s solve this absurd situation so that everyone wins. NSLIJ has taken over Lenox Hill Hospital in a community that, as I have just described, is practically drowning in beds. The DOH would be absolutely correct in stating that the Upper East Side is way overbedded, that the situation is not financially sensible or sustainable. And Lenox Hill, even with the marketing might and deep pockets of NSLIJ, will be hard pressed to compete with the likes of Sinai, Sloan, Hospital for Special Surgery, and NY Hospital. But, hey look around you—behind me is a huge empty hospital campus, across the street is another 160,000 sq ft of empty space, and all around me are 385,000 patients—customers—with no hospital, no services, and we are desperate for help.
So-I say to NSLIJ, come on down.
Move the entire Lenox Hill Hospital downtown. Bring the doctors, bring the nurses, the support staff, the beds, the fancy equipment, bring it all, and we will fill your beds. We’ll even be getting a lot of our great St. Vincent’s docs back since Lenox Hill recruited so many of them. And in exchange, let the Rudins move uptown to build their condos. Talk about prime real estate---we’re talking 76th and Park Ave, doesn’t get much better than that. And if NSLIJ doesn’t need the entire St. Vincent’s campus, well, they can throw the Rudins a building or two to develop down here. Just think about it---at a minimum it’s bed neutral but they could probably do it with 400 beds, so we actually close another 250 beds—hooray. I’m not a banker or a mogul, but I suspect the dollars work to everyone’s benefit. And nobody loses their job, businesses would reopen in this ghost town, and we, the people, get our healthcare crisis resolved with the opening of new world class, full service hospital and emergency room. Think of the good will generated, think of the fund raising opportunities, imagine the restoration of healthcare for 385,000 people. Everybody wins, nobody loses.
Let’s all work together to create the new World Trade Center Memorial Hospital.