Residents have a new place to get well

BY Aline Reynolds

Downtown Hospital will be opening a Wellness and Prevention Center in the fall, the first of its kind in Lower Manhattan.

The center will cater to everybody and anybody in Lower Manhattan, offering a variety of services for men and women.

“We really want to minimize the agony of coming into the hospital,” said Chui-Man Lai, assistant vice president of the wellness center. Unlike a standard medical facility, a wellness center focuses on preventative treatment.

“We’re really here not to just treat people but to educate our patients and residents in the neighborhood,” she said.

Such services will include early cancer detection and cardiovascular risk assessment.

The facility will occupy a vacant, 10,000 square-foot space on the first floor of the hospital, located at 83 Gold Street. It consists of 15 examination rooms with state-of-the art medical equipment, including echocardiography and mammography machines, and will have the capacity to serve up to 2,500 patients per year. The staff will consist of eight to 10 of the hospital’s physicians, along with nurses, medical specialists, and nutritionists.

People with all insurances will be admitted to the center. Those without insurance will receive assistance in obtaining it, according to Lai.

The wellness center will streamline the process of treating patients. A female, for example, could get a mammography and a breast ultrasound during the same visit.

“You don’t have to be transferred anywhere,” she said. “It’s what we call a one-way trip.”

Each patient will receive a comprehensive physical examination after reviewing his or her medical history with a primary care physician. “Testing will follow evidence-based clinical protocols that are age-and-gender-specific,” according to a description of the center on the hospital’s website.

“When a person would need advanced care, we have a seamless way of providing it,” Lai said.

Patients in need of additional treatment that the center can’t provide will be referred to New York Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical Center, both affiliates of Downtown Hospital.

The hospital has allocated $5.7 million in funds for the building of the center. A state health care grant led to $3.2 million in funding, while the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation pitched in the remaining $2.5 million.

The remaining $3 million of the state grant went towards the construction of the newborns intensive care unit on the hospital’s sixth floor, a new wing of the labor and delivery unit, which is almost complete and expected to open by the end of September.

The L.M.D.C. awarded the hospital $5 million with half to be used for the wellness center. The leftover $2.5 million from the L.M.D.C. was used for the first publicly funded M.R.I.s for Lower Manhattan, according to Ercolano, which will be used by physicians in the wellness center. The hospital’s radiology center is steps away, on the first floor of the hospital.

Construction of the center, which began at the beginning of the year, should be completed by the end of August. The space then requires inspection by the N.Y.S. Department of Health before it can open; both will likely occur in September. The hospital will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony for invited community leaders and elected officials.

“I am thrilled that we have had the opportunity to bring together so many interests from within the community to create our new Wellness and Prevention Center to serve all the men and women of Lower Manhattan,” said Downtown Hospital C.E.O. and President Jeffrey Menkes. “We are looking forward to a memorable ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the initiation of this important service, which will totally transform the way healthcare services are delivered in a hospital setting.”

For those seeking additional local emergency care in light of the closing of St. Vincent’s E.R. room, physician Steve Okhravi will be opening an emergency medical care unit at 200 Chambers Street on September 27. For more information, visit www.emergencymedicalcare.org.