Gouverneur Hospital is a New York City public hospital surrounded by tenement housing and imposing public housing projects near the East River on the Lower East Side, in a community filled predominantly with poor Asians and Hispanics. The hospital is currently undergoing a modernization project which began in 2008. The Lo-Down reports the project "will transform the existing building and add a gleaming 108,000 sq./ft. tower." The intent, according to Executuve Director Mendel Hagler explained, "is to create a hospital that doesn’t feel like a hospital." What Hagler neglected to mention is the hospital doesn't currently feel like a hospital anyways, more than a ramshackle structure haphazardly constructed to provide last resort care to poor people.
Gouverneur Hospital on the left, across the street from Fiorello LaGuardia Houses
"The innovative design has been tailored to Gouverneur's patients - approximately three quarters of whom are Hispanic or Asian – which will ensure that Gouverneur remains connected and engaged with the local community," said Steve Gifford, director of the Design Studio for RMJM Hillier, the project designer.
Though it's hard to see in the architectural rendering above which covers the folders patients receive containing their paperwork, there are 23 people milling about the street and a few vehicles. The neighborhood looks bright and airy; full of money. 17 people shown are Caucasian; the other six are too, probably. There are two BMW's and one AUDI on the street. It is an extreme disconnect from the demographics of the neighborhood and might be indicative of what "community" the hospital intends to roll out the red carpet for. When the modernization project was announced, Executive Director Mendel Hagler said it "reflects Gouverneur’s commitment to provide patients with top-notch care in a comfortable, safe environment." Of course, I hope they will. But it strains credibility to think the current administration in New York City would spend 180 million plus to construct and provide new hospital care with a hotel-like 295-bed nursing facility, for poor Asian and Hispanic people.
The "commitment to provide patients with top-notch care" must be on hold until the new building is completed. As I witnessed myself on two recent visits to the building, the current standards of hygiene and sanitation at Gouverneur Hospital are abysmal.
Broken down, consumer grade mini fridges with doors that did not shut properly were used to store medicinal supplies that needed cooling. Insect traps were strewn about in corners.
Most all medical surfaces in the room used to do blood work were covered with dirt and grime, including surfaces in direct contact with patients.
Walls and floors throughout were filthy with noticeable amounts of dirt accumulating.
When I asked a doctor if these conditions were temporary due the construction, she laughed and said no: "This is how its been for years." Maybe this department is moving to the new side once work is completed? "I don't think so," she replied. "They might move us upstairs to the fourth floor of this building."
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