Trauma drama shows hospital’s needed, activists say


By Jefferson Siegel

On Monday evening, passersby in front of the former St. Vincent’s Hospital on Seventh Ave. were startled when they encountered a bit of living — or in this case dying — theater, in front of the shuttered healthcare facility.

West Village resident Gerrie Nussdorf was covered in faux blood with several real-looking nails protruding from her torso.

“I need a doctor, are you a doctor?” Nussdorf cried out as local activist Jim Fouratt helped her. Evette Stark Katz, dressed in gown, gloves and mask, said there was no doctor available.

The award-winning performances were part of what was described as a “mass civilian trauma exercise,” intended to call attention to the lack of a Level 1 trauma center in Lower Manhattan.

“I always thought the hospital would be here,” lamented Rainie Cole as several dozen people rallied, holding banners and passing out fliers demanding that Community Board 2 reject the Rudin organization’s application for upzoning the site.

The Rudin group, which took over the buildings after St. Vincent’s went bankrupt and closed in April 2010, wants to convert some of the existing hospital buildings into luxury condos, plus redevelop other parts of the site.

“Something sacred has been taken out of the neighborhood,” Katz said. “I don’t know why anybody would want to live in a condominium that was a hospital.”

The exercise simulated dual emergencies of a subway crash on 14th St. combined with a swine flu outbreak.

“I’ve been hurt, I have chest pains,” Nussdorf cried out as Fouratt demanded, “Where is Christine Quinn, Tom Duane, Deborah Glick?”

The group distributed a flier showing an uneven distribution of hospital beds in Manhattan. While the Upper East Side has 4,064 beds, the Upper West Side 2,206 and the East Side below 14th St. has 3,101 beds, the Lower West Side below 14th St. has only two beds, and those two are contingent on creation of a comprehensive-care community health center.

Participants urged the community to contact elected officials and demand a full-service hospital. After an hour, the group departed for a meeting of Community Board 2 to ask what the board’s solution is to fill the gap in healthcare.

Last month, the state Health Planning Council approved the $110 million plan by North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System to convert the former St. Vincent’s O’Toole Building, on the west side of Seventh Ave., into a Center for Comprehensive Care, including a 24-hour emergency department.

Katt Lissard from Chelsea, left, joined the several dozen protesters on Monday night outside the former St. Vincent’s Hospital.