The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

New York’s last Catholic hospital, on life support

A New York City Catholic institution is now in critical condition, on the verge of closing.

And the New York Times this morning looks at some of the symptoms of its decline:
For more than 150 years, St. Vincent’s Hospital Manhattan was a beacon in Greenwich Village, serving poets, writers, artists, winos, the poor and the working-class and gay community.

It treated victims of calamities, from the cholera epidemic of 1849 to the sinking of the Titanic, the 9/11 terrorist attack and, just last year, the Hudson River landing of US Airways Flight 1549. The poet Edna St. Vincent Millay got her middle name from the hospital, which saved her uncle’s life in 1892 after he was accidentally locked in the hold of a ship for several days without food or water.


But last week, in what could mean the death knell of the last Roman Catholic general hospital in New York City, a big chain of hospitals proposed to take over St. Vincent’s, shut down its inpatient beds and most of its emergency room services, and convert it into an outpatient center tied into the chain’s own hospitals uptown and across town to the east.

How St. Vincent’s went from a cherished neighborhood amenity to a relic of times past is a chronicle of mismanagement compounded by the economics of the health care industry, changes in the fabric of a historic neighborhood and the low profit potential in religious work.

It was once part of the Roman Catholic social and political machine in New York City, a cradle-to-grave embrace of parishioners who were born in a Catholic hospital, educated in parochial schools, married in the church and given last rites by a priest.


Last week, a day after the announcement of the proposed takeover, members of the Sisters of Charity, the Catholic order that founded the hospital in 1849, gathered in a noon Mass at St. Vincent’s and vowed to fight. “We are not going away,” said Sister Jane Iannucelli, vice chairwoman of the hospital board, standing in the light of the stained glass windows.

“One of the things that’s so crucial to the Sisters of Charity is serving the poor,” she said after the Mass.

It was that very calling, some industry executives suggested, that may have helped make the hospital obsolete.

“Helping the poor is indeed the mission and the cause célèbre,” said Kenneth E. Raske, president of the Greater New York Hospitals Association, a trade group. “Therein lies the dilemma.”

For more, head to the link.

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posted February 2, 2010 at 3:23 pm

I would much prefer the Sisters of Charity taking care of the poor to the federal government. I pray that we don’t end up with bureacrats doing the work that nuns (and all of us) should do.

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Your Name

posted February 2, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Catechism has provided some help over the years not to exclude the original American Christian churches.
Clergy with sexual predatory practices has left the church with a multi-billion dollar sex-debt while losing land, buildings, other investments, and cash trying to pay it off.
This is why the Church provides an unlawful sanctuary service to illegal aliens. The Pope asked us to continue sanctuary-amnesty for illegal aliens of Catholic belief to help pay for those debts during his 2008 visit.

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Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

posted February 2, 2010 at 9:20 pm

This makes me weep and weep.

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