Watch: RUMC unveils new ER plan at 'Autumn in New York' gala
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Guests usually know what to expect at an annual gala — cocktails, music, honorees and speeches, dinner and dancing.
The annual gala of Richmond University Medical Center, went off script Saturday night, with a special presentation and a surprise announcement.
""Autumn in New York is our theme, but in reality it is the springtime of Richmond University Medical Center," said Timothy Harrison, co-chair of the event that celebrated the past, present and future of the hospital.
Administrators of the over 100-year-old institution in West Brighton took the opportunity to unveil plans for its new Emergency Department, larger, better equipped and storm resistant to meet the evolving needs of the community.
Dr. Edward Arsura, chief medical director, received the Physician of Distinction Award. The Community Service award was presented to Brian J. Laline, executive editor of the Advance; and former Borough President James P. Molinaro received the Outstanding Leadership Award.
"The doctors and teams at the hospital that kept this hospital together when it looked like it didn't have a leg to stand on, that is who deserves recognition," said Laline, a sentiment that was echoed throughout the evening.
After a short documentary showcasing the state-of-the-art facility, Daniel Messina, president and CEO of RUMC, announced to the delight of the crowd, that the new facility will be named in honor of Molinaro.
"We are recognizing him as the government official most vital in making sure that local control of the hospital remained on Staten Island and that a full service, acute care hospital remained on the North Shore," said Kathryn Krause Rooney, chairwoman of the board.
"I basically fought against it," said Molinaro. "There are so many people that have done so much for so long that made this hospital survive. And I will tell you who is number one: Kate Rooney. We have what we have because of her."
"My satisfaction is knowing I did something when there was a need and was an individual who had the opportunity to do something at that time," said Molinaro, who was a board member since 1980 when the hospital was St. Vincent's and through the transition to the establishment of RUMC in 2007.
During that time, Molinaro was Deputy Borough President and then BP from 2002 to 2013. Through some deft negotiating, he steered the institution through a number of crises and was instrumental in securing funding for the new independent hospital from the city and state.
"If I wasn't borough president, I wouldn't have been able to do anything," he said. "It is not the sacrifice of a board chair who gets up everyday and is not paid for all the work they do."
The news was received with rousing applause.
"He certainly deserves it. When we reconfigured, he was right there making sure it would succeed," said Alan Weissglass, a past board chairman of St. Vincent's and current RUMC board member. "These plans are a very important sign we are moving forward. I think the Sisters of Charity would be proud."
The plans are in the final design stage, said Dan Messina, president and CEO of RUMC, and construction may begin by the summer. It should take about two years to complete.
A two pronged capitol campaign has been launched, targeting both private donors and public funding.
"We're pleased that all the elected officials have been enormously supportive to lobby for public money," said Messina of the bipartisan enthusiasm.
Preliminary reports put the price tag at $50 million; however, Messina said "it is a little early to definitively say the final cost."
The only borough hospital not in a flood zone, RUMC treated 20 patients per hour in the emergency department — five times its normal patient volume — during and immediately after Hurricane Sandy.
The current 40-plus year old emergency room was "set up for 25,00 annual visits and we are in excess of 65,000," said Messina.
The hospital serves many financially disadvantaged Islanders on the North Shore and the area has the highest mortality rate in New York City, according to RUMC data.
It is anticipated that the waterfront projects along the North Shore will also increase the areas population and need for a local hospital.
Timothy Harrison was joined by his wife, Caroline Diamond Harrison, and Jacqueline and Joseph Torres as co-chairs for the black tie event.