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After over 30 years, Soundview Health Center is gone

Bronx Times

Goodbye Pedro, hello new health care provider.

Pedro Espada’s Soundview Health Center is now in new hands.

Staffers for The Institute for Family Health are already erasing any trace of the once thriving center at 731 White Plains Road, now named the Stevenson Family Health Center after neighboring Stevenson Commons.

A spokeswoman with the Manhattan-based healthcare group said no board members of the Soundview clinic will sit on the institute’s board, though staffers can re-apply for their old jobs once the clinic is up and running.

But even as they file paperwork with federal and state agencies, the Institute moved in the last week of June after Soundview gave up its lease, and began $2 million in renovation work.

The Institute will also be managed by a familiar face - Dr. Neil Calman, a founding member of the Soundview Health Center.

“I’m thrilled to be coming back to Soundview, where 30 years ago as a young physician, I learned to practice community medicine,” said Dr. Calman.

He said his group has possession of the building and is renovating it while “we’re working very closely with the state Health Department in meeting the requirements. I don’t think there’s any chance it’s not going to get approved.

Rachel Fasciani, Soundview’s spokeswoman called Dr. Calman’s involvement a positive move.

“He understands the needs of the community and we believe the institute’s takeover is in the best interest of the patients,” she said.

Dr. Calman left the clinic in 1984 to help found The Institute for Family Health, which has five clinics in predominanatly low-income Bronx areas.

This is not the first time the Institute has stepped in to take over struggling health facilities. In 2010, it opened a Family Health Center in Harlem after North General Hospital shut down. But it’s also in the expansion business, adding a new wing to its Walton Family Health Center on 177th Street and Walton Avenue in the Bronx. It recently opened a new Department of Family Medicine in Mount Sinai School.

The Soundview Health Center was a staple in the neighborhood for over 30 years, servicing 20,000 patients yearly. It’s troubles began when state investigators discovered Espada stole nearly $500,000 from the clinic to fund a lavish lifestyle that included vacations, birthday parties and expensive sushi.

The clinic slowly deteriorated over the last three months after the state Department of Health cut off Medicaid reimbursements.

Espada, awaiting a second trial for federal tax evasion, has maintained the state has a “political vendetta” against him for leading a coup against state government in 2009.

Between the application process and renovations, it is unclear when the doors to the center will open.

Bill Schwarz, state Department of Health spokesman said the agency would not put a time stamp on the opening since finalizing approval or disapproval of an application vary. “Once the review is complete we’ll inform the necessary parties,” he said.

Patient records, abandoned by Soundview, will be integrated into the institute’s patient database, said Dr. Calman. Dental and mental health care services will be added later.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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