Updated 08/16/2010 11:03 PM
Former Hospital Employees Seek Details Of St. Vincent's Financial Collapse
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A coalition of former employees of St. Vincent's Hospital and Lower Manhattan community advocates said they have filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court Monday to shed light on financial mishandling that they say helped shut down the hospital.
St. Vincent's closed on April 30, citing a debt of a billion dollars, and forced 3,000 employees to lose their jobs.
"We had a culture there that was very caring and we worked together as a team," said Eileen Dunn, the former president of the St. Vincent's Nurses Association.
The lawsuit claims that St. Vincent's executives wasted millions of dollars while exaggerating their debts.
The documents say that in one year, the hospital paid its top 10 executives a combined $10 million and spent $17 million for management consultants and nearly $4 million on professional fundraising.
The petition also says the hospital paid $278,000 for a golf outing and that the facility's federal tax returns designate $104 million as unspecified costs.
"We haven't gotten enough information. Specifically, there have been claims that a closure plan was filed with the [state] Department of Health by St. Vincent's Hospital. We have been requesting this basic information for months now," said attorney Yetta Kurland. "Those requests have gone unanswered and we have been forced now to seek legal intervention to go into court to have a judge compel the Department of Health to turn over this information."
Among the politicians supporting the lawsuit is City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who said, "I really don’t understand at all how the management there let the hospital fall into such a terrible situation where we were unable to save it."
In addition to wanting to know more about why St. Vincent's closed, the same coalition behind the lawsuit is calling for a new hospital to be opened at the site of the former facility.
"The distance from the West Village to Beth Israel or St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital is an extra 15 to 30 minutes, and that can be a whole lot of time when you are in an ambulance and you're either bleeding or having a stroke or having a heart attack," said Dr. Josh Torgovnick, who worked at St. Vincent's.
State Health Department officials said they will not comment on pending litigation.
Saint Vincent's officials said they have not seen the lawsuit as of Monday afternoon, but said that based on what they have heard it is "a blatant distortion of the facts."
Their statement went on to say, "For 160 years, St. Vincent’s has focused on acting in a manner that is best for our patients and the community. While we have had to make many difficult decisions, that obligation hasn’t changed."
The next date for the lawsuit has been set for September 8 at Manhattan State Supreme Court.