By Patrick Donachie
Southeast Queens residents said their neighborhoods could benefit from more community outreach on the part of New York City’s public hospital system, during a forum on the future of health care.
The event was put on by NYC Health + Hospitals, one of several the public hospital system is conducting to gauge community input on the future of health care in New York City. The forum was held on Tuesday evening in the basement auditorium of the Queens Library on Merrick Boulevard in downtown Jamaica.
Marjorie Momplaisir-Ellis, a senior director for engagement and collaborations at NYC Health + Hospitals, said it was important to ensure that the totality of patients’ needs were being considered, including services beyond medical needs.
“In order to make our transformation, we have to a better job integrating health care with social services delivery,” she said. “We want to make sure they can be captains of their ship, as far as their health is concerned.”
The evening consisted of brief presentations from NYC Health + Hospital staff, a survey for attendees to complete, and small group discussions centered on necessary changes in the state of health care in local neighborhoods, and what H+H could do to help improve local care.
NYC Health + Hospitals has had a tumultuous few months. Dr. Ram Raju, the system’s CEO, announced he would be stepping down at the end of November. Additionally, an analysis by the Independent Budget Office this summer revealed the system faces a $1.8 billion deficit by 2020, even though Mayor Bill de Blasio increased the system’s funding by 50 percent. Representatives from the system said a large share of uninsured patients, decreased state and federal funding and a declining use of inpatient services contributed to the shortfall.
After the small group sessions, presenters from each group presented their conclusions to the audience, pinning their thoughts on a whiteboard at the front of the room. A need for greater outreach was common in most presentations. One resident mentioned she had not known there were chemical dependency services available at Queens Hospital, and thought there needed to be more education about available services. Other residents bemoaned the lack of nearby specialists to service the community and stressed the need for urgent care centers in the event of overcrowded emergency rooms. One presenter spoke about the need for more clinical trials in the area as well as a “pipeline program” that would support students in the area who might want to enter the medical profession. She said better nutritional options could make a great difference.
“How can we eat better so we can feel better?” she asked.
Representatives from H+H said that their hospitals and centers in southeast Queens saw increases in visits after the closure of other hospitals in the area and they had added 40 beds at Queens Hospital due to the increase. NYC Health + Hospitals serves 1.2 million New Yorkers each year, according to the presentation. The system includes 11 hospitals, two of which are in Queens. About 70 percent of the people using its services are uninsured or on Medicaid, and approximately 40 percent are immigrants.
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona