By Anna Gustafson
North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System officials last week celebrated the ribbon-cutting of their urgent care center in Rego Park, which they said would help to address the gap in health care created when St. John’s and Mary Immaculate hospitals closed last year.
“We’re creating this center as a direct response to the pressing need for greater health-care access here in Queens,” Michael Dowling, president and chief executive officer of the North Shore-LIJ Health System, said at Friday’s ribbon-cutting for the new center, at the site of a former St. John’s clinic at 95-25 Queens Blvd.
St. John’s and Mary Immaculate closed in March 2009 after their parent company, Caritas, announced it was $100 million in debt. Just prior to those closings, Parkway Hospital was also shuttered in November 2008. By April 2009, Queens had lost 862 hospital beds, leaving other area hospitals, particularly emergency rooms, bursting at the seams.
Officials at Friday’s event said the 6,675-square-foot, urgent care center will help to cut down on the number of individuals going to area emergency rooms, particularly at Forest Hills Hospital, which saw a 40 percent spike in ER visits after St. John’s and Mary Immaculate closed. Forest Hills Hospital is run by North Shore-LIJ.
Urgent care centers are designed to treat people experiencing non-life-threatening emergencies, such as broken bones or respiratory problems, for which individuals will often seek treatment at emergency rooms, officials said.
“The numbers we saw at Forest Hills Hospital were fairly overwhelming,” said Jeffrey Horwitz, the Rego Park urgent care center’s director and former director at Forest Hills Hospital. “After St. John’s and Mary Immaculate closed, Forest Hills’ ER went from seeing about 90 patients a day to sometimes over 200 patients a day. On average, we had a 40 percent increase.”
The Rego Park center includes eight exam rooms, treatment areas for blood work, specialized testing and diagnostic services — including electrocardiograms, X-ray services, and ultrasound and lab testing. A wide range of illnesses and injuries will be treated at the site, including asthma and allergy symptoms, skin rashes, burns and minor infections, colds, the flu, pneumonia, eye injuries, ear pain, animal bites, sprains and fractures.
“This is bringing care close to where people live,” Dowling said.
The center was paid for by a $5.3 million grant that North Shore-LIJ received from the state Department of Health. It will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays. Horwitz said they would add hours if the community needs it.
To contact the urgent care center, call 718-925-6565.
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.