Sandy-related construction still ongoing at VA Medical Center

Work includes replacing elevators along with the entire electrical system as part of a $207 million federal relief package. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

It was over five years ago when Superstorm Sandy flooded much of Manhattan’s East Side, crippling hospitals in Bedpan Alley. But it was the VA Medical Center on East 23rd Street that fared the worst, closing for six months.

Today, thanks to $207 million in federal relief money, the veterans’ hospital, while fully operational, is still undergoing work to replace systems that need to be upgraded rather than just repaired in the event of a future catastrophe.

Martina Parauda, director of VA NY Harbor Healthcare System (which includes local facilities including the Manhattan one), spoke to veterans about some of the ongoing projects at a town hall meeting on Tuesday morning.

The massive floodwall that began construction in 2015 is mostly done, including parts that can’t be seen like underwater pumps. It was originally supposed to be completed in 2016, but the VA has previously said underground excavation proved to be more complicated than expected.

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Flu cases double at Bellevue, Doctors say: Just get the shot

Bellevue Hospital offers the flu vaccine free to New Yorkers without insurance or who are under-insured throughout flu season.

By Sabina Mollot

Over 5,000 New Yorkers have become bedridden with the flu this season, according to Senator Charles Schumer.

Calling it a “historic outbreak,” on Monday, Schumer called on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to designate a special “domestic flu surveillance team” for the state, which he believes will help “augment the work of inundated hospitals and budget-strained localities.”

Locally, the increase is being seen at Bellevue Hospital, where doctors have already seen 200 patients with confirmed cases of the flu, up from 100 for the entire season last year. Out of the 200 positive tests, 60 people were admitted to the hospital, while the rest went home. In a typical season, 100 people come in with the flu and 20-40 get admitted.

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Prescription meds are absolutely worsening opioid crisis: MSBI doc

Mount Sinai Beth Israel has the world’s oldest and largest opioid treatment program. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Sabina Mollot

On Tuesday, the mayor announced a lawsuit targeting major pharmaceutical companies, who he said have contributed to the city’s opioid explosion by getting people hooked on prescription drugs.

In 2016, more than 1,000 people in New York City died in a drug overdose that involved an opioid, the highest year on record. Additionally, according to city data, more New Yorkers died from opioid overdoses last year than from car accidents and homicides combined.

The suit is asking for a half million dollars to cover current and future costs to combat the crisis at hospitals not to mention costs relating to courtrooms and the morgue.

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Stuyvesant Town Mount Sinai Practice now open

(Pictured) David Leeds, aide to Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney; Margaret Pastuszko, Executive Vice President, Chief Strategy and Integration Officer, Mount Sinai Health System; Kelly Cassano, Chief of Ambulatory Care, Mount Sinai Beth Israel, Associate Dean of Clinical Affairs, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; Jeremy Boal, MD, President, Mount Sinai Downtown and Chief Medical Officer, Mount Sinai Health System; State Senator Brad Hoylman; Council Member Keith Powers; Susan Steinberg, President of the Stuyvesant Town / Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association; Claude Winfield, Vice-Chair, Local Community Advisory Board, Chair, Mount Sinai Beth Israel Community Advisory Council; Rick Hayduk, CEO, General Manager, StuyTown Property Services; Abigail Chen, Senior Medical Director, Mount Sinai Doctors Downtown Faculty Practice; Elvis DeLeon, Vice President, Ambulatory Operations, Mount Sinai Doctors Downtown (Photo courtesy of The Mount Sinai Health System)

Mount Sinai Doctors Stuyvesant Town, a new multi-specialty practice at 518 East 20th Street, was officially opened last Thursday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Featuring state-of-the-art exam rooms and imaging services, the practice will offer extended weekday and weekend hours for both walk-in and scheduled appointments.

“Serving the downtown community is our top priority and our vast ambulatory network, one of the largest in lower Manhattan, makes this possible,” said Jeremy Boal, MD, the president of the MountSinai Downtown Network, who is also a resident of Peter Cooper Village.

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New Beth Israel building may be built higher

Brad Beckstrom, senior director for community and government for Mount Sinai pictured at a public meeting in June 2016 (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Mount Sinai Beth Israel is planning to build additional floors at the new East 13th Street facility to accommodate more beds if necessary, representatives announced. This is a change from the previously-announced plan since the hospital system had said that a smaller building would be constructed initially but with the ability to build additional floors if demand increased.

Representatives from the hospital system announced the adjustments to members of the Budget, Education and City Services committee for Community Board 5 on Tuesday and noted that this does not change the reduction in beds.

“We still believe we’ll have enough beds but we’ll be building up and adding the extra floors,” said Brad Korn, corporate director of community affairs for Mount Sinai Beth Israel. “(The space) might not end up being beds but it will cut down on the process if we do need it for that.”

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THANK YOU: Generous T&V readers donate over 400 toys to holiday drive

Dr. Bonnie Robbins, coordinator of children and family services at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, with some of the donated toys (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Readers of Town & Village have once again made the holidays a little brighter for children stuck in hospital rooms as well as well as other children in need by donating 406 toys to this newspaper’s annual drive.

The toys will be distributed throughout the pediatric department of Mount Sinai Beth Israel, where some young patients are awaiting surgery, as well as to the children of patients who utilize the hospital’s network of opioid treatment centers. The vast majority of the patients are low-income.

“These toys mean so much to our families, many of whom struggle during the holiday season to make it a special time for their kids,” said Bonnie Robbins, PhD, coordinator of children and family services at Mount Sinai Beth Israel. “These gifts go a long way to giving our children a truly happy holiday.”

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Bellevue gets 3D mammogram machine

3D mammogram machine (Photo courtesy of NYC Health + Hospitals)

By Sabina Mollot

With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Bellevue Hospital has recently invested in new 3D mammogram imaging technology, which studies have shown leads to earlier detection of breast cancer. The hospital has also purchased new biopsy machines, which are needed to read the images from the mammography technology, known as Digital Breast Homesynthesis.

Dr. Hildegard Toth, section chief of breast imaging at Bellevue, said the new technology was a very important development in breast imaging as it reduces false positives, which in turn reduces the chances patients will be called back for follow-up visits. According to peer-reviewed papers that have looked at the technology as used in 13 centers, the number of patients being called back for followup appointments was reduced by 15 percent.

It also is able to detect early cases of cancer, which means in those cases, patients have more options for treatment.

“Generally, these are small cancers, less aggressive and would not have been found otherwise,” Toth said.

The way the imaging system works is that it’s able to produce a series of images of the breast, which can then be broken down and reconstructed to show breast tissue in multiple slice-like sections, not unlike a loaf of bread.

“It affords the ability to reduce the effects of tissue overlap, because sometimes you have breast tissue that is superimposed and you’ll be unable to distinguish an abnormality from something that’s benign,” Toth said.

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Mount Sinai opens urgent care center at Union Square facility

Equipment at the new eye examination room (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Mount Sinai Beth Israel announced the opening of a new urgent care center in its Union Square facility earlier this week as part of the changes to the hospital amid the plan to downsize. The center officially opened on September 12 at Mount Sinai Union Square with seven standard exam rooms as well as an eye room and x-ray room.

Mount Sinai has been its renovating facilities south of 34th Street ahead of the plan to drastically reduce the number of beds in the hospital on First Avenue that representatives have said reflect changes in the healthcare industry, which is shifting towards outpatient care.

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UPDATED: Beth Israel community needs assessment survey open now through September 22

July10 Beth Israel in the distance

Beth Israel’s First Avenue building (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Mount Sinai, which has already begun the process of downsizing and relocating the Beth Israel Medical Center while creating a Mount Sinai downtown network, is seeking public input. The hospital network has put up an online community needs assessment survey, but it will only be open through September 20. A note on the website says it runs through today, but according to a representative for Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, the date was extended.

UPDATE: The closing date has since been extended again to Friday, September 22.

 

The survey can be accessed through a link  and it is available in English, Spanish and Chinese.

The smaller Beth Israel with reduce its number of beds from over 800 to 220 (70 hospital beds, plus 150 behavioral health beds that will remain at its Bernstein Pavilion). It will be located on East 14th Street and Second Avenue with a focus on an outpatient model of healthcare and include an expansion of walk-in services.

Neighbors seeking input in Beth Israel downsizing plan

Judy Wessler, community health planner

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Despite the usually-slower summer months, community groups have remained focused on Mount Sinai Beth Israel’s downsizing plan, which includes drastically reducing the number of hospital beds. The Gramercy-Stuyvesant Independent Democratic Club hosted a recent forum to provide updates, although representatives from local hospitals, including MSBI, were unavailable to attend the meeting.

Community Board 3 Chair Jamie Rogers said that the community board, along with Boards 2 and 6, has recently been involved in a working group organized by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

“The main asks (of the group) are to maximize community participation and make sure that the State Department of Health is actually listening to our concerns,” Rogers said. “The DOH isn’t the most community-minded of our bureaucracies. We have trouble getting them to our events.”

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NYS Dept. of Health agrees with Mt. Sinai on Beth Israel downsizing

Mount Sinai Beth Israel (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The New York State Department of Health has presented data that supports Mount Sinai Beth Israel’s reasoning for downsizing due to beds going underused.

The DOH discussed its own findings at a public meeting with the Public Health and Health Planning Council (PHHPC) last Thursday.

PHHPC is charged with making decisions concerning the establishment and transfer of ownership of healthcare facilities and makes recommendations to the Commissioner of Health concerning major projects and service changes, and heard presentations from the State DOH as well as from Mount Sinai Beth Israel.

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Advocates call for transparency on MSBI downsizing

Anthony Feliciano, director of the Commission on the Public’s Health System (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Non-profit organizations and healthcare advocates are urging the community to demand transparency when it comes to the planned downsizing of Mount Sinai Beth Israel.

The subject was discussed at a meeting held by the Lower Manhattan chapter of the New York Progressive Action Network, a coalition of progressive activist groups, at the property service workers’ union 32BJ SEIU’s headquarters on West 18th Street last Thursday.

Anthony Feliciano, director of the Commission on the Public’s Health System, moderated the meeting, which was attended by over 100 people. He encouraged the public to contact the Department of Health about the project and demand a community needs study, which the hospital system has said it will not be doing.

Arthur Schwartz, the Democratic District Leader for Greenwich Village, said that residents should also demand an environmental impact study and encouraged the neighborhood to resist zoning changes for the areas where current Beth Israel buildings will be sold, to prevent developers from building luxury high-rises.

“At St. Vincent’s, we lost because they went into bankruptcy but Mount Sinai doesn’t want to take Beth Israel into bankruptcy,” Schwartz said, referring to the closure of St. Vincent’s in Greenwich Village in 2010. “The state has power here and we have to demand transparency during this process. It’s basically (Mount Sinai’s) own plan and not based at all on input from elected officials or the community.”

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Pols frustrated over lack of input from community in MSBI downsizing

Mount Sinai Downtown President Dr. Jeremy Boal (right) answers a question asked by Council Member Corey Johnson. Pictured at left is Brad Korn, director of community and government affairs at Mount Sinai. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Community members and elected officials have expressed concern about the steep reduction of beds at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, once the hospital is downsized as planned. At a forum held in the Union Square hospital facility last Thursday, State Senator Brad Hoylman and City Councilmember Corey Johnson brought up the number of beds, and Hoylman added that he was concerned about a lack of community input on the plan, as were representatives for Borough President Gale Brewer and City Councilmember Dan Garodnick.

When Hoylman criticized the lack of community involvement in the issue and asked if any of the plans would be modified based on input from residents, Mount Sinai Downtown President Dr. Jeremy Boal admitted that the plan would not.

“We’re skiing in front of an avalanche,” he said, citing financial concerns for Beth Israel. “We’re losing money at such a rapid clip that if we take a giant pause, the community will be left with nothing.”

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Beth Israel’s Gilman Hall sold and may become dorm

Gilman Hall (photo via Google Maps)

By Sabina Mollot

Gilman Hall, the building at Beth Israel Medical Center’s First Avenue campus, that was put on the market last summer has sold for $87 million to an owner who plans to turn it into student housing.

Asset manager CIM Group announced on Tuesday that it bought the 146,000-square-foot Gilman Hall Tower and contiguous parcels.

“The Gilman Hall site represents an exceptional opportunity to reposition and modernize a significant property in an exciting location currently experiencing substantial public and private investment,” said Avi Shemesh, co-founder and principal of CIM Group. “While the surrounding neighborhood offers desirable amenities and excellent public transportation that complements a variety of potential uses, we believe the site is particularly well suited for a student housing and educational facility use for which several institutions have expressed interest.”

A spokesperson for CIM said the company wouldn’t be commenting further on the future of the property.

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In new book, Bellevue doctor says physicians need to listen to patients

Feb23 Danielle Ofri

Bellevue Doctor Danielle Ofri (photo courtesy of author)

 

By Sabina Mollot

Dr. Danielle Ofri, PhD, MD, a Kips Bay resident and Bellevue Hospital doctor who’s authored four nonfiction books, has just released her fifth, on the need for better communication between patient and doctor.

The book was inspired by a number of her own patients’ inability to tell someone else what their concerns are coupled with doctors’ habits of not listening as carefully as they should.

She gave one example of how after a while she began tuning out a patient “who was very demanding of my time,” Ofri said. He’d annoy her by leaving multiple, angry messages on her answering machine demanding to see her right away. His habit of panicking and the constant messages wore on Ofri, and while she knew he had a bad heart, she was surprised when one day he actually collapsed in her office.

“He was nervous about his heart and the terror of dying animated him,” she said. “I’m hearing obnoxious and angry demands and was not recognizing his fear of death,” Ofri admitted.

This example is mentioned in the book, What Patients Say; What Doctors Hear ($25, $24 as an e-book).

Ofri, who’s worked at Bellevue for 20 years, said often patients are too embarrassed to discuss their deeper concerns with their doctor like the real reasons they’re not taking their prescribed medication. Affordability is often, though not always a factor.

“Patients are very shy about saying it costs too much or they’re splitting it in half or there’s an eating disorder or domestic violence.”

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