Lost Hospital — St. Vincent’s Hospital, New York City0

One day in 1849, four nuns rented a building at West 13th Street and 7th Avenue in New York City. These nuns had recently been dispatched from the Sisters of Charity in Maryland, an order inspired by the Daughters of Charity (a religious congregation founded in the seventeenth century by French priest St. Vincent de Paul).

The nuns brought in 30 beds to treat the city’s sick. Named after St. Vincent de Paul, St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan was founded that year as a hospital to treat not only the sick, but also the poor and disadvantaged.From these humble origins, this small brick building expanded over time to become a major medical and research center. The Hospital always maintained its connection to the Roman Catholic tradition, not to mention St. Vincent is the designated patron saint of charities, hospital workers, hospitals, and volunteers. In 1856 the facility outgrew its location, and moved to a former orphanage at 11th Street and Seventh Avenue.

In its lifetime, St. Vincent’s was home to many critically needed and critically acclaimed programs, including:

St. Vincent’s HIV Center: St. Vincent’s was one of the first hospitals to treat HIV and AIDS in the 1980’s, and the Center was the most renowned of its kind in the United States.

John J. Conley Department of Ethics: This department’s focus on the study of clinical medical ethics and spirituality in health care was a leader in the medical community world-wide.

Elizabeth Ann Seton Chapel: With its ties to the Catholic Church, St. Vincent’s chapel was of great importance, symbolically at the center of the hospital and influencing the architecture around it.  The chapel offered daily Mass for patients and hospital staff.

Hospital Pet Care Program: St. Vincent’s instituted a program to help patients care for their pets during a hospital stay. Animals were either walked and fed at the patient’s home, or they were relocated to short-term facilities.
Comprehensive Cancer Center: The center provided prevention, diagnosis, treatment and recovery of a variety of malignancies. With 24 hour emergency care, the center also offered surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and stem cell transplants.

St. Vincent’s mission was symbolic to the community it served:

Respect: The basic dignity of the human person is the guiding principal in all our interactions, policies and procedures. Integrity: Integrity is the consistency between the Catholic identity we profess and the ways in which we act it is that quality of truthfulness, which fosters trust. Compassion: Compassion is the way we share deep concern, love and care toward each person. Excellence: Excellence is our way of demonstrating that we can always be more, always be better.

On April 6, 2010, St. Vincent’s board of directors voted to close inpatient care services. On April 9, ambulance runs stopped going to St. Vincent’s emergency department. St. Vincent’s delivered its last baby on April 15.

Finally, on April 30, 2010, after providing health care services for more than 160 years to the people of New York City, and Greenwich Village in particular, St. Vincent’s emergency department closed, officially ending the hospital’s long history.

With a work force in excess of 3,500 (including doctors, nurses, non-clinical workers and others), the 758-bed (with a Level I Trauma Center and Level III Neonatal ICU) St. Vincent’s Hospital catered to patients and their families with the help of a supporting, neighborhood infrastructure. Up until the day St. Vincent’s closed, a local deli ordered 20 dozen bagels daily, a nearby garage parked 50 cars a day, and a neighborhood florist filled weekly orders for some hospital doctors once a week. After April 30, the deli reduced its order to four dozen, the garage’s daily “census” is 15, and the florist sells about 1/2 as many flowers as before. St. Vincent’s demise crippled a neighborhood at the same time it stopped caring for the sick.

Although St. Vincent’s will make its presence known in the New York City legal system for years to come (numerous lawsuits of all different kinds have been filed since the Hospital’s closing), the hospital’s absence may be felt even longer.

Photos from CNN.com and Ephemeral New York.

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