BY TRONE DOWD
The access to health based services in Southeast Queens has been scarce to say the least. While the issue is not based on the quality of care, financial troubles have led to a deficit in the number of facilities and amount of resources available to the residents of these mostly minority areas.
In 2009, Southeast Queens saw the closure of Mary Immaculate in Jamaica, a huge blow to those being served by the small scale facility. Three years later, Peninsula Hospital in Far Rockaway suffered the same fate, leaving many on the peninsula without a hospital and emergency services closer to home.
These two areas and their surrounding neighborhoods are now being served by Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, which despite its name is based out of Richmond Hill. This has left a bit of an issue when it comes to emergency response times and overburdening, even with the hospital’s immense size. The other major Southeast Queens facility, St. John’s Hospital in Far Rockaway, is also not ideal for Queens residents due to its distance away from the rest of the borough.
Representatives from Jamaica Hospital told the Press of Southeast Queens that there has been a noticeable increase in response and patients for the facility, cases that would have been cared for by other now closes hospitals throughout the borough.
Southeast Queens elected officials have tried their best to help the lack of hospitals and help alleviate the situation. Two elected officials spoke on the issue and are looking to get help to their constituents that would have benefited from the now closed hospitals.
Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Far Rockaway) acknowledged that health services has become an issue in the area.
“The lack of access to quality health care in southern Queens and Rockaway is quite frankly a matter of life-or-death,” Goldfeder said. “With just one hospital here in the community, our families often face long rides in ambulances in snarled traffic just to get the care they need.
Goldfeder said that he hopes to bring light to the situation through financial support. He vows to help constituents get the services they need.
“When every second counts, this situation has the potential to put lives in danger. I have fought to improve our existing hospital facilities and expand on our limited health care services. I will continue to fight until our families in southern Queens and Rockaway have the services they need and deserve.”
Goldfeder secured a $500,000 state capital grant for St. John’s to upgrade facilities and expand their surgical unit. He also introduced legislation post-Sandy to reimburse the hospital costs incurred during post-storm emergency operations, as well as proposed improving traffic light signal systems to speed ambulance response times.
Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Far Rockaway), who represents Laurelton, Rosedale, parts of Springfield Gardens, Bayswater, Hammels, Arverne, Edgemere, and Far Rockaway, has committed himself to the issues as well. In a statement to the Press of Southeast Queens, a representative outlined Richards plans for his constituents.
“When a hospital closes it created a big gap,” the representative said. “But we’re working to improve St. John’s, putting an emphasis on improving maternity wards and making sure women have quality health care options.”
He mentioned that St. John’s has been looking to move forward with improvements to the emergency room, something that the councilman fully supports.
“We are also increasing funding this year for the [Joseph P.] Addabbo Health Center [in Far Rockaway],” he continued. “We’ll be announcing that fairly soon.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City Economic Development Corporation, who have been heavily involved in the soon to be revitalized Downtown Far Rockaway area, has been in touch with the Richards and St. John’s Hospital and are working towards getting many of their resources further east on the peninsula. So far, they have plans to make the ground floor of a newly proposed senior housing center on Beach Channel Drive a satellite for St. John’s.
In the face of the hospital closures, the Councilman is going to invest in Jamaica Hospital in hopes that funding will assist any troubles they may have with overburdening of the facility.
“In the mainland, we just need to make sure Jamaica Hospital is getting improvements,” he said.
Reach Trone Dowd at (718) 357-7400 x123, firstname.lastname@example.org or @theloniusly.