LIJ Forest Hills hosts inaugural Community Connection event that aims to improve health care in Queens

Photo courtesy of LIJ Forest Hills

Leaders from LIJ Forest Hills on Nov. 15 met with Queens community leaders and elected officials to share their vision for a collaborative effort to provide health care in the borough at the Queens Museum, where more than 50 community leaders and elected officials were in attendance at the inaugural Community Connection event.

(Photo courtesy of LIJ Forest Hills)

Among the notable elected officials in attendance were state Senators Joseph Addabbo Jr. and Leroy Comrie, Assemblyman David Weprin and Councilwoman Lynn Schulman. Additionally, Borough President Donovan Richards sent a video message. The event was also meant as a reintroduction of the hospital to the community after the COVID-19 pandemic and to redefine what a community hospital is and what it can provide.

According to the hospital’s executive director, Lorraine Chambers Lewis, having the hospital build connections with those in attendance can be very beneficial to the community. Some of the attendees will soon be called upon to join LIJ Forest Hills’ new community advisory board. Those who join the board will be called upon to help shape the services and programs offered by the hospital.

LIJ Forest Hills Executive Director Lorraine Chambers Lewis speaks at the Community Connection event. (Photo courtesy of LIJ Forest Hills)

“We want to make sure that we have our finger on the pulse and that this is not just a one-way conversation,” Chambers Lewis said. “We want you to tell us what the community needs.”

The 312-bed hospital delivers nearly 2,000 babies and takes care of over 50,000 patients in its emergency department on an annual basis. Additionally, the hospital provides employment up to 1,500 staff members, many of whom come from within Queens. The staff is actively involved in major community events, including the annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Races, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer and Night Out Against Crime with the 112th Precinct.

The hospital also recently launched its electrophysiology program. It offers leadless pacemakers to treat patients at risk of sudden cardiac arrest, as well as advanced endoscopy services, which allow for less invasive biopsies. The hospital has been designated as a Center of Excellence for bariatric surgery and minimally invasive gynecologic surgery.

To meet the needs of the hospital’s culturally diverse patient population, LIJ Forest Hills uses video-assisted interpreter devices so that patients can speak to someone in their native language in real time regarding their healthcare. Additionally, patient TV channels are offered in Spanish, Russian, Korean and Chinese. Culturally sensitive meal offerings, such as kosher and halal food, are also provided.

The topics of the questions asked to the a panel of medical leaders ranged from flu shots to the immigration status of patients. The panel consisted of Chambers Lewis, Chair of Emergency Medicine Christopher Calandrella, DO, Medical Director Mitchell Jacobs, MD, Chair of Medicine John Raimo, MD, and Chief of Surgery Armando Castro-Tie, MD.

Senior vice president and regional executive director for Northwell Health’s central region John D’Angelo, MD, addressed the audience about the health system’s community investment and goals for patient care in the borough. In addition to LIJ Forest Hills, Dr. D’Angelo oversees LIJ Valley Stream, LIJ Medical Center, Northshore University Hospital, Zucker Hillside Hospital, Cohen Children’s Medical Center and about 280 ambulatory practices in Queens and Nassau County.

“We don’t think of things as just a hospitalization,” Dr. D’Angelo said. “In fact, we’re trying to get rid of the word ‘discharge’ because it sounds like we’re done with you when you leave our hospital. It’s all about transitions of care. What is that continuity of care that we need to deliver to the community to promote wellness and then transition people to the level of service they need, and make that as seamless as possible for our patients.”