A move to close two major immunization walk-in clinics has left community members looking for answers.
The City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) announced it will shutter the Corona Health Center, located at 34-33 Junction Boulevard, and the Tremont Health Center in the Bronx by the end of the month.
Together with community leaders and elected officials, members of District Council 37 (DC 37), a public employee union, rallied last week at City Hall to stop the DOHMH’s plans. Lillian Roberts, executive director of DC 37, called the closings “a threat to public health and safety” and noted they would come right when children are going back to school.
“Parents in this community already have a hard time finding a seat for their children in a real classroom,” said State Senator Jose Peralta. “Now the city wants to make it harder for them to get their kids immunized for school.”
According to Councilmember Daniel Dromm, the Corona Health Center is in the heart of a heavy immigrant community where access to affordable health care is already limited.
“I just can’t believe they are going to close it,” said Dromm. “Elmhurst Hospital is already so overwhelmed and this is only going to add to their burden. It’s a very poor health decision. It’s going to have a devastating effect on the community.”
The walk-in clinics offered children over four years old, teens and adults immunizations for conditions including hepatitis, tetanus, measles, mumps, influenza and rubella.
“The loss of these immunization clinics will not only create a burden for hundreds of New Yorkers who currently rely on their service, but it could also lead to significant public health risks,” said Councilmember Julissa Ferreras.
After the Corona and Tremont clinics are closed, the Fort Greene Health Center, located at 295 Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, will be the only immunization walk-in clinic in New York City offering free and low-cost immunizations.
“This is not a decision that the Department takes lightly,” said the DOHMH in a statement. “While we are reluctant to close clinics, the agency has decided to restructure and consolidate services to preserve essential functions and reduce overall cost of operations, knowing that less than one percent of all vaccinations in New York City occur at our clinics.”
According to the DOHMH, the Fort Greene center will remain open five days a week, from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and there are still 50 primary providers in the Bronx and 22 in Queens that provide free or low-cost immunizations.
The DOHMH also said no staff will be laid off as a result of the closings.
Peralta and Dromm have each sent letters of opposition to the department’s plans to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and DOHMH Commissioner Thomas Farley.