A network of health clinics that largely serves low-income New Yorkers is poised to take over the South Bronx healthcare system founded by former state Senator Pedro Espada, who was convicted earlier this year of stealing money from the facility.
The Institute for Family Health hopes to begin operating in Soundview’s flagship clinic later this summer, pending approval from the state Health Department.
“It’s still a community in tremendous need of services,” said Dr. Neil Calman, the president and CEO of the Institute for Family Health. “There are hardly any primary care providers there now.”
Calman was among the first physicians to work at Soundview, when Espada founded it in the early 1980s.
“The senator and others and I had a dream to develop a state-of-the-art facility that would serve the people in the Soundview area,” Calman said. “Since I left there in 1984, our careers diverged, and we now have a chance to go back and fulfill that vision again – so I’m grateful for that opportunity.”
In May, as Espada stood trial, the clinics that once treated hundreds of patients a day saw just dozens and was unable to pay some staff members for several weeks. Close to three-fourths of the patients who visit the clinic are on Medicaid.
Espada was convicted of steering more than $500,000 intended for the nonprofit network to fund their lavish lifestyle.
Calman said the center needs $2 to 3 million in renovations, but he hopes a small group of examination rooms can be opened relatively quickly, to serve some patients. Many doctors have agreed to return to Soundview to practice.
“There are a lot of patients who need care, and we’re anxious to take care of them again,” Calman said.
The Institute for Family Health has 30 locations.
Soundview will be renamed the Stevenson Center after the adjacent Stevenson Commons affordable housing unit, which owns the property. It would be IFH's 18th full-service clinic.
In addition to basic primary care for children and adults, it would also offer dental care, cardiology, podiatry and mental health, among other specialties.
Espada’s spokesperson did not immediately return emails seeking comment.
Calman says he has been in touch with his former colleague during the transition.
“He said he was glad it was us that was taking it over, that he felt confident our organization would continue to give services, and the legacy of what he did good for that community would be preserved through the continuing survival of the healthcare center,” Calman said. “I take that very seriously. We plan to bring it back to life.”