Birth control and rent said to delay urgent-care center


By Albert Amateau

The Greenwich Village community board was outraged this week by reports that the bankrupt St. Vincent’s Hospital was holding up a new urgent-care center for the community by demanding that the proposed center ban birth control services.

But both St. Vincent’s and North Shore/Long Island Jewish Health System, which received a grant to run the center in the former St. Vincent’s emergency department, said on Wednesday that “productive” negotiations on the center were continuing.

However, in a Mon., Aug. 23, letter to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court handling the St. Vincent’s proceedings, Jo Hamilton, Community Board 2 chairperson, and Brad Hoylman, chairperson of the board’s St. Vincent’s Omnibus Committee, said, “Open access to family planning services by women is not only a constitutional right but also crucial to the health and well-being of our local community.”

North Shore/L.I.J. recently received a $9.4 million grant from the state Department of Health to run the urgent-care center, to be temporarily located in the emergency department of the hospital, which closed in April.

But negations between North Shore/L.I.J. and St. Vincent’s hit a snag last week over Catholic directives on birth control, as well as the amount of rent that North Shore/L.I.J. would pay to use the closed emergency room. Also at issue was St. Vincent’s requirement that the urgent-care center would have to move out of the E.R. building immediately upon the Bankruptcy Court approval of a sale of the property.

The community board letter charged that St. Vincent’s was betraying the community by attempting to “force their religious beliefs on North Shore and by trying to charge above-market rates for the temporary use of their currently boarded former emergency room.”

Nevertheless, a North Shore spokesperson said on Wednesday that the health system was still trying to establish the center temporarily in the closed St. Vincent’s emergency department and was actively looking for permanent space where the “urgie care,” as it’s known for short, would not be subject to St. Vincent’s religious directives or leasing requirements.

“The original plan was to set up the urgent-care center in St. Vincent’s by Labor Day,” said Terry Lynam, North Shore/L.I.J. spokesperson. “We needed six to eight weeks to get it in shape but we weren’t able to get an approved lease, so that timetable is no longer possible. But we met with St. Vincent’s on Friday [Aug. 20] and we made some progress,” he said.

“In any case, the St. Vincent’s emergency department would only be a temporary,” he added. “We’ll have to relocate when and if the property is sold. We are looking at alternatives in the St. Vincent’s catchment area for a permanent urgent-care location. We recognize that people in the area were adversely impacted by St. Vincent’s closing and we want to offer as much healthcare as we can.”

Veronica Sullivan, a spokesperson for St. Vincent’s, said the Aug, 20 meeting with North Shore would hopefully lead to further progress.

“St. Vincent’s is hoping that an alternative healthcare model may be developed that will provide continuing care to the community that we have humbly served through 160 years and many crises,” Sullivan said.

Any agreement involving St. Vincent’s property must be approved by the Bankruptcy Court as well as the state Department of Health, which must also approve the permanent location of the center.