By Patrick Donachie
An EmblemHealth Neighborhood Care facility in Cambria Heights will remain open despite initial fears of closure, according to state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans). He made the announcement during a news conference outside the facility last Friday.
“This success is due to the hard work and engagement of our community,” Comrie said to the crowd at the facility, located at 206-20 Linden Blvd. “Because you rallied support and collected signatures, this vital resource for the community will not be closing its doors to the people who rely on it.”
Comrie said EmblemHealth had contacted him prior to the start of the news conference to pledge to work with the community and find a way to keep the Cambria Heights site open for services.
The facility opened nearly four years ago and is the only EmblemHealth facility of its type in the borough. It offers a variety of free services and programs, including nutritional advice and help in quitting smoking, according to its website.
The facility is located in southeast Queens, which bore the brunt of several hospital closures in recent years, including the shuttering of Mary Immaculate Hospital in Jamaica in 2009, Peninsula Hospital Center in Far Rockaway and Holliswood Hospital in 2013.
Comrie said people who used the care center were notified about three weeks ago that the facility would likely close at the end of this month, citing the economic cost due to a lower number of medical visits as opposed to preventative or lifestyle care.
“A lot of people have had their lives changed as a part of the wellness programs,” Comrie said. “Community members came to my office and requested our assistance because they were very distraught about losing this location that had positively impacted them.”
Comrie said the continuous loss of in-house medical facilities in the area made the EmblemHealth facility all the more essential for community members. Comrie pledged his office would work with the community to alert them to the medical services available at the facility, and EmblemHealth promised to get back to Comrie within the week about the next steps forward.
Nazneen Rahman, the director of EmblemHealth’s Neighborhood Care, also said the facility in Cambria Heights would remain open.
“Our commitment to community is unwavering, and we will balance the factors that led to our initial decision by offering a new experience in 2017,” she said. “EmblemHealth is in the middle of an exciting business transformation, and improving access to care and care coordination are factors we’re focusing on. We are actively working with community leaders to determine the best ways in which to assist the health and wellness for all those we serve.”
Community activists Joan and Michael Gore collected hundreds of signatures to pressure the health organization into keeping the facility open. Michael Gore said the neighborhood care center offered vital services to the community.
“I have been in these classes for over two years and have witnessed success stories of diabetics who are off of their medications and patients who have taken control of their high blood pressure,” he said. “In a community with so many dialysis centers, we would be going backwards if these programs were to be taken away.”
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona