BY NICK ABADJIAN
The Queens Hospital Center is preparing for a long awaited, praised, planned and big move this spring . . .right across the street.
After 10 years of dreaming and hard work by Borough President Claire Shulman, more than two years of construction, and $147 million, Queens Hospital Center will move into a new, five-floor building across the street. Set to open in June, the state-of-the-art health care institution will enhance health care, particularly for the 950,000 residents of central and southeast Queens.
Shulman seemed to speak with a sigh of relief as she gave her 2001 State of the Borough address and said “Perhaps the most essential resource we improved this year is our health care system. Here’s something I’ve been waiting to say for the last 10 years . . . the long-awaited, much anticipated new Queens Hospital Center . . . is now a reality and will open this year. This state-of-the-art facility will include ‘Centers of Excellence’ for women’s health, cancer care, and diabetes care. The 200-bed hospital is a public facility open to everyone. At the same time, we continue to move ahead on plans to redevelop the remainder of the hospital campus for medical related uses.”
Latta Vasconcellos, associate director for external affairs, said more simply, “This is a gift to the community.”
The new glassy structure sits on the north side of the old hospital on 164th Street and 82nd Avenue and although it looks completed from the outside, the interior has yet to be finished.
Its 360,000 square feet will house 200 inpatient beds, for primary and specialty ambulatory care and take up just a quarter of the 22-acre campus of Queens Hospital.
Vasconcellos explained, “Perception is a reality, so we have to create a reality.” Queens Hospital is re-inventing itself, she added, like its sister hospital Elmhurst Hospital, which was upgraded with a $250 million modernization program in 1997. “Health care is a competitive industry, and for us to survive we need to step up our service to communities.”
Plans for the long-awaited building received support in 1997 from the City Council, the mayor and Queens borough president, which led to the ground breaking in October 1998. The $149 million project is managed and funded by the Dormitory Authority, a state benefit corporation which designs and constructs new facilities for nonprofit hospitals. So far the project is on time and on budget.
Robert Rossdale, the hospital’s associate executive director, said “I’ve worked here for over 20 years and we’ve had a lot of false starts. For the longest time, people stopped coming because they thought it would close, but now they can see the changes and the new building.”
It made more sense to the staff to build a new hospital. Juxtaposed next to tomorrow’s hospital is today’s art deco Queens Hospital Center . . . a light-brown brick monolith built during the depression. Medical services are spread out throughout the building and the building wings are narrow, limiting the maternity ward to 20 units.
Rossdale said, “It’s inefficient to manage all the services and patients when you have to move around.”
Renovations have modified what currently exists in the old hospital structure – called the A Building – to make the best use possible out of the space available.
Innovations in care, outreach and room design now at work in the A Building have been incorporated into what will soon be open in the new Queens Hospital Center.
Vasconcellos added that once all of the programs have been phased out of the A Building and are completely at home in their new facility, the A Building will be demolished. What happens to its land and the remaining acres surrounding the hospital is up to the Economic Development Corporation, she added.
Health Care Future
“We want to become the choice hospital,” said Vasconcellos. “For where mothers want to bring their babies or for people to bring in their parents when they become ill.”
Queens Hospital has a grass roots campaign of education that includes health seminars, breakfasts with community residents, and sending representatives to churches and mosques.
Many of the A Building wards have been renovated to appear more friendly and less sterile. The maternity ward has a day area for new mothers to socialize. It resembles a living room with flowered wallpaper.
And the hospital staff have worked hard to render the pediatric ward more playful. Its walls are painted with bright colors of red, blue and green and are invaded by the likes of Elmo and Tigger.
“You rebound quickly if you are in a good mental place,” said Vasconcellos, who emphasized the hospital’s philosophy of treating the patient as a whole and stimulating the patient’s mental needs.
The interior of the new building will reflect the tones of the renovations. Medical service in the new building will be updated and more consolidated.
New technology includes digital X-rays which will speed up the process for doctors on different floors who can simply tap into a computer.
Centers Of Health Excellence
The women’s center will take up the whole second floor for everything from delivery to mammography. Deliveries are on the rise, and the new building will accommodate expectant mothers with single rooms.
In addition to the latest technology, the cancer care facility has been designed to keep families in mind, including a library for use while loved ones receive chemotherapy.
And the diabetes center has put together a comprehensive program for treatment as well as preventative health care in Queens.
“It’s a real need in this community, especially in ethnic communities where diabetes is rooted,” said Vasconcellos who pointed out that diabetes is common in African Americans, Caribbean, and Indian.
“This is a garden spot for Queens, because of the compassionate staff,” said Vasconcellos.
The Life Of The Queens Hospital Center
1903 – NYC purchases 22½ acres of farmland in northern Jamaica.
1906 – A horse-drawn ambulance based at QHC is used to transport area residents suffering from communicable diseases to a Brooklyn hospital.
1909 – $230,000 is secured by the City to build a small hospital on this site.
1912 – An appropriation is voted upon for an 80-bed hospital for the treatment of tuberculosis.
1928 – The Medical Society of the County of Queens petitions the City to build a municipal hospital where Queensboro Hospital stood; an allocation of $3.4 million is set aside, with a planned bed capacity of 400.
1929 – On April 16 the present site of Queens Hospital Center is selected.
1935 – Queens General Hospital is dedicated on Oct. 30. Outpatient Department opens Nov. 6; Inpatient Services on Nov. 18.
1936 – Queensboro Hospital becomes the Queensboro Pavilion of Queens General Hospital.
1938 – The first mental hygiene clinic in Queens was opened and the Blood Bank of Queens General Hospital was inaugurated.
1941 – Triboro Hospital opens its doors on Jan. 1. On Sept. 1, the Queens General Hospital Affiliating School for Student Nurses starts with an initial enrollment of 26 students.
1952 – Queens General Hospital, Triboro Hospital, Neponsit Beach Hospital and the College Point Outpatient Department combine to become Queens Hospital Center on June 6.
1956 – The School of Nursing opens.
1959 – Medical boards of Queens General Hospital and Triboro Hospital merge as the Medical Board for Queens Hospital Center.
1964 – Major renovation and expansion occur after NYC enters into an agreement with three voluntary teaching hospitals: Long Island Jewish Medical Center, Mary Immaculate Hospital and Hillside Hospital.
1970 – Alcoholism Services, the first in Queens, is created, featuring a 20-bed inpatient unit and comprehensive outpatient program.
1972 – The Queens Hospital Center Advisory Board is established and the inpatient drug detoxification unit of 21 beds is opened.
1976 – The Hospital’s new Emergency Room opens.
1989 – Surgical Services move into their new home in the A Building.
1995 – New Medicine and Pediatric Clinics open in the N Building.
1997 – Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Borough President Claire Shulman announce a $147 million major reconstruction project for Queens Hospital Center at a City Hall press conference on Aug. 19. The Dormitory Authority of the State of New York is chosen to manage the project and the architectural firm of Perkins & Will/David Brody Bond is selected to design the new facility.
1998 – Systematic demolition of longstanding buildings begins in earnest, making way for construction of the new facility. New Maternity and Pediatric Units are established on the fifth floor of the A Building to ensure that the Hospital remains competitive throughout the transition. The Hospital’s entrance, formerly located on 164th Street, is rerouted to the T Building on Parsons Boulevard for the duration of construction.
2001 – The new Queens Hospital Center schedules to open in the spring.
– Prepared by Jane Petrik,
QHC Office of Communications