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Residents protest San Vicente closing

Nearly 2,000 San Vicente de Paul residents, adult day care patients, family members, staff and St. Athanasius Church parishioners want Archbishop Timothy Dolan to keep the Longwood nursing home open.

San Vicente de Paul, on Intervale Avenue, is operated by ArchCare, the nursing home arm of the Archdiocese of New York. Because most of its patients are dependent on Medicaid, the 200-bed nursing home has accumulated a $7.5 million deficit.

On Friday, September 25, ArchCare announced plans to shutter San Vicente de Paul. Residents have been told that the nursing home will close in 2011. It would be “a horrible decision” for Bronx Hispanics and Catholics, San Vicente de Paul family member Jacqueline Crespo wrote in a letter to Dolan and Bronx elected officials. Her grandmother has been a resident of the nursing home since 2004.

Crespo was one of 1,928 people to sign a petition for San Vicente de Paul dated Wednesday, October 14. The petition explains why the nursing home matters to Longwood. It was established in 1992 to cater to Hispanic seniors; most staff speak Spanish. San Vicente de Paul offers ethnic foods and ethnic games. Its construction helped kick-start a Longwood renaissance.

The state Department of Health has agreed to offer San Vicente de Paul $16.9 million toward the costs of closure. ArchCare explored other state grants and asked for federal stimulus funds but managed only to win a HEAL NY grant, ArchCare spokesman Bill Cunningham said. The state wants to shed nursing home beds and considers the Bronx in excess, Cunningham added. The HEAL NY grant will pay San Vicente de Paul’s debts but requires the nursing home to shed beds.

Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo is upset that ArchCare failed to notify Bronx elected officials until after it won the HEAL NY grant. She has heard that ArchCare will use some of the $16.9 million to pay debts at nursing homes in other neighborhoods but will only shed beds in Longwood.

ArchCare has asked for additional funds in order to retain a ground floor day care clinic and build assisted senior housing on its parking lot. The upper floors of the nursing home would also become assisted senior housing. Many San Vicente de Paul residents would be able to remain on Intervale Avenue, Cunningham said.

But where are San Vicente de Paul residents who need around-the-clock care to go? the petition asks. When a stroke paralyzed Crespo’s grandmother, she was unable to talk or swallow. Crespo found other nursing homes unfriendly or dirty. San Vicente de Paul was different. Crespo’s grandmother felt comfortable among Hispanic residents and staff.

Her story is one of many, Crespo said. Senator Ruben Diaz, Councilwoman Arroyo, Councilwoman Annabel Palma, Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo and Assemblyman Marcos Crespo have met to discuss San Vicente de Paul. Diaz and Councilwoman Arroyo met with Dolan on Tuesday, October 27 in a bid to keep the nursing home open.

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