In lieu of my normal column, I want to bring GO readers’ attention to the recent closing of St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village.
I know what you’re thinking: how is St. Vincent’s’ closure an LGBT issue?
St. Vincent’s Hospital was a nonprofit public charity hospital that served a significant number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals during its 161 years of existence. It was also an integral source of support for other LGBT-focused health care clinics in the area, including the Callen-Lorde Com-munity Health Project.
The hospital hosted one of the largest HIV/AIDS Centers of its kind, indelibly linked to the legacy and history of the AIDS epidemic here in the West Village. Its HIV/AIDS health care workers were some of the best, brightest and most compassionate in the world.
St. Vincent’s worked in conjunction with other organizations on projects like the LGBT Community Center’s efforts to educate lesbians about cancer risks, early detection of breast cancer, and the LGBT Cancer Network. St. Vincent’s Hospital acted as an ally to our community, ensuring health care for a population ignored by mainstream medicine due to homophobia, mistreatment, ignorance and intolerance. Not only were its patients comforted to see many other LGBT patients, but the staff of doctors, nurses and medical workers also proudly included a large LGBT contingent. Though it followed Catholic doctrine in many areas (such as limiting reproductive services for women), St. Vincent’s went a long way toward combating homophobia in the medical profession.
This past April 6, without so much as a public hearing, and for unexplained reasons, the Board of Trustees voted to shut the hospital down. Within a matter of days and in breach of state regulations, the hospital collapsed on itself and was gone forever. With it go the stories of so many in our community. Some say it was because there was too much debt, there were too many hospital beds, or that it was an opportunity to turn St. Vincent’s’ real estate holdings into luxury condominiums. Whatever the reason, the LGBT community has been devastated and many of us don’t even realize it yet.
So what happens now? It is a battle of wills. If our community demands it, and our elected officials want to make it happen, we could upgrade the structure and open a new Village hospital with the same level of care and better operation. But, if the real estate interests are more powerful, we will be stuck with an “urgent care” center that will help us if we have a cold or twisted ankle, but will not heal our broken hearts.
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Special thanks to Gina M. Bonica, Esq. and Audrey A. Mars, paralegal, at Kurland & Associates who competently and compassionately help to handle our adoption proceedings.