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Assemblyman William Scarborough (left), State Sen. Joseph Addabbo and Jamaica Hospital President and CEO Bruce Flanz (right) talked about healthcare in Queens during a Black History Month breakfast on Feb. 21. Photo by Joe Marvilli

BY TRISHA SAKHUJA
Staff Writer

With the recent enactment of the Affordable Care Act, the state of healthcare is a topic on the minds of not just patients, but also elected officials and hospital administrators.

One of the main topics of discussion during the Queens Tribune’s Black History Month breakfast on Feb. 21 was the state of healthcare in Queens.

President and CEO of Jamaica Hospital, Bruce Flanz, said when he joined Jamaica Hospital 29 years ago, the population was 1.8 million with 25 hospitals and today, we have 2.3 million people living in Queens with nine hospitals.

“Health and healthcare is not the same,” he said. “Health is an individual’s own personal health, which is made up of their genetic makeup.”

Flanz went on to say an individual’s personal health consists of 40 percent of their genetic makeup, 50 percent of their lifestyle and 10 percent of the type of healthcare.

Since the current state they receive is not ideal and four neighboring hospitals have shut their door in the last five years, Flanz said “We need to protect the existing hospitals; we can’t afford to lose anymore.”

He further explained the demand for beds has gone down in hospitals due to the quick recovery process most patients face.

He gave an example about a patient who would stay in the hospital for four to five days after a hernia operation 25 years ago, but now a patient undergoing the same operation needs to use a hospital bed for five hours.

Flanz said Jamaica Hospital, one of 14 level one trauma centers out of the 60 or so hospitals in New York, is shifting from a hospital-centric model to a patient-centric model, where everything is focused on the patient’s needs.

That means healthcare providers will focus on teaching their patients how to stay healthy, as opposed to only caring for them when they become ill, Flanz said.

“The system is now moving to incentivize providers to keep people healthy and that is naturally a very good thing,” Flanz said.

He said that system is known as the “Triple Aim” concept, which focuses on preventive health.

“It is better health and better care at lower costs,” he said.

Therefore, Flanz said younger physicians are being taught the importance of nutrition, or conveying young moms the importance of breast feeding for both the mom and the baby and pushing more smokers to quit.

Flanz gave the example of a woman who lived in a mold-infested house that eventually affects her health.

“It would be more cost effective, from the cost of healthcare perspective, if we were able to clean up the problems she has to deal with regarding the flooding in her basement,” he said.

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), who also spoke on the state of healthcare during the breakfast, said he sees the fear in the eyes of senior citizens when he speaks about healthcare.

He said he understands why the ACA causes a lot of fear, but his office and many other have sponsored town hall meetings at community and senior centers to discuss the pros and cons of the new healthcare system.

Addabbo also expressed the need to bring healthcare services to the district to make it more localized and to help residents understand where they can go for accurate information and services.

Overall, Addabbo said the State’s budget is in good hands and they will continue to look at long term healthcare needs.

“Forums like this are very helpful, but it goes far beyond these walls of today,” he said. “We need to keep up the dialogue of the importance of healthcare and the importance of funding programs that work.”

“As we are on the cusp of the real negotiations of the State budget, we are going to do what we can to protect what we have,” he added.

Reach Trisha Sakhuja at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, tsakhuja@queenstribune.com, or @Tsakhuja13.