Struggling St. Vincent's Hospital is Closing

John Commins, April 7, 2010

After 160 years of continuous operations, financially-troubled St. Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan will close inpatient services, including all acute and behavioral healthcare, the hospital announced.

The vote Tuesday by the Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Center's board of directors to close its flagship hospital came after a six-month effort to save the last Catholic-affiliated hospital in New York City, which is $700 million in debt, and had defaulted on its Chapter 11 restructuring plan.

The closure affects only St. Vincent's Hospital Manhattan inpatient services. Other facilities and programs of Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Centers will continue as the organization seeks new sponsorship to operate them, the health system said in a media release.

"The decision to close St. Vincent's Hospital Manhattan inpatient services was made only after the board, management, and our advisors exhausted every possible alternative," said Alfred E. Smith IV, chairman of the board of Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Centers. "We are deeply saddened that we were unable to come up with a viable plan to save the inpatient services at the hospital that has proudly served Manhattan's West Side and Downtown for 160 years."

Smith said outpatient services, including the hospital's Cancer Center and the HIV/AIDS Center, will remain open, but the hospital will transfer those services to new sponsors.

The 400-bed hospital with 3,500 employees anticipates there will be changes to its outpatient health center clinics in the future, but they will continue to operate as usual. Elective surgeries will continue on a case-by-case basis, though it is anticipated that elective surgeries will cease April 14.

New York Gov. David Paterson, who created a task force to save St. Vincent's and gave the hospital $9 million in emergency loans to keep it running, said in a media release that he was "disappointed" that the hospital is closing.

"We should use this as an opportunity to ensure that the healthcare needs of this community are met by creating an urgent care center combined with other vital healthcare services the community needs," Paterson said. "To that end, I have directed the Department of Health to solicit proposals for this new model of care. Although this news will be difficult for employees, patients, and the hospital's many supporters, we will continue to work aggressively with the hospital and its board, lenders, unions, and elected officials in this next step."

Paterson said the state's Department of Health would work with St. Vincent's and other providers in the area to ensure continued access to critical inpatient services, and an orderly transition of St. Vincent patients to other hospitals.

The remaining parts of Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Centers, including its nursing homes, home health agency, St. Vincent's Hospital Westchester, and US Family Health Plan, will continue to operate without interruption as the organization finalizes their sale.

Four Sisters of Charity founded St. Vincent's in 1849 as a 30-bed hospital in a brick house on 13th Street, as one of the few charity hospitals in New York City, according to the hospital's Web site.

St. Vincent's, located in Greenwich Village, was the closest hospital to the World Trade Centers after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and provided care for hundreds of people wounded after the towers fell.

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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