Queens Hosp. opens center

By Rich Bockmann

Queens Hospital Center marked off another project on its checklist Monday when the hospital community gathered to cut the ribbon on a newly expanded psychiatric emergency center.

“This is a very, very, very special day for mental health,” said Dr. Ann Sullivan, Queens Health Network’s senior vice president. “I think when people come in crisis to a facility — when they have emotional problems — they so much need an environment that’s soothing and healing and welcoming and something that can really help them stabilize what they’re feeling and get back on track with their lives. And that’s what a facility like this does.”

For the past 20 months, the hospital has been undergoing a $9.3 million expansion to its Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program, which admits patients suffering from conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder and chronic schizophrenia.

The project nearly doubled the facility’s space to 8,500 square feet, expanding the living and treatment areas for the center’s six observation beds. In a typical emergency room, the goal is generally to discharge a patient as soon as possible, and most are not optimally equipped to handle psychiatric emergencies.

“It’s important to remember that our psychiatric emergency department is not like a typical emergency department, where we treat patients and discharge them in the same day. In our psychiatric emergency department, patients may under condition stay as long as three days,” said Julius Wool, the hospital’s executive director. “So we really need a facility that meets the needs of patients for potentially as long as a three-day stay.”

A new addition to the center are the three beds in the adolescent holding unit, a space dedicated specifically for youngsters referred for emergency treatment and one Wool called a “major, major addition.”

Queens Hospital, in Hillcrest, is one of two city-run hospitals in the borough.

It was the only hospital in the state recommended for expansion in 2006 by the state Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century — also known as the Berger Report — which called for the downsizing of other facilities such as Peninsula and St. John’s Episcopal hospitals and the closure of Parkway Hospital.

Since that time Queens Hospital has been checking off about 15 projects — adding six beds to the intensive care unit, another six to the neonatal ICU — and plans to complete the entire 40-bed expansion by the end of 2014.

“Since Queens is under-bedded, it’s necessary that we give Queens Hospital all the support possible,” said City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans).

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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