Letters to the editor, June 28

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

The health impacts of family separation

Dr. Mitchell Katz, president and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals Corporation, parent organization to Bellevue and other public hospitals, wrote the following letter on Thursday, following a press briefing.

Over the last few days, I have received messages from distraught physicians, social workers, and other health care providers in our health system who are understandably horrified by the unjust treatment of immigrants across our county. They are seeing first-hand the serious health impact to children of immigrants who have been torn apart from their families — and not at our border, but here in New York.

After separation, some of these children have ended up in our Emergency Departments accompanied by their government-appointed guardians who are often unfamiliar with the children, have no access to medical records, and have no way of getting in touch with a family member to get a medical history.

We have seen children as young as five and have treated teenagers who have presented with signs of anxiety, trauma and stress-related illness, including one extreme case of a teen with suicidal ideations after being separated from his mother.

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Bellevue names new CEO

Newly appointed Bellevue Hospital CEO William Hicks at his office Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Newly appointed Bellevue Hospital CEO William Hicks at his office (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

As of the past three weeks, Bellevue has had a new CEO, William Hicks, who previously served as the hospital’s COO. The appointment came following the retirement of Hick’s predecessor, executive director Steven Alexander and came alongside a number of other new leadership hires throughout NYC Health + Hospitals, Bellevue’s parent organization.

Hicks had been the acting CEO for the past few months, but since announcing the formal transition, he met with a Town & Village reporter in his new office, which doubles as a conference room, to discuss the big health care issues of the day. Those would include dealing with cuts in federal funding, adapting to the health care industry trend of ambulatory care and how the downsizing of another East Side medical mammoth, Mount Sinai Beth Israel, could impact Bellevue.

The recent news about how a hospital with over 800 beds would be shrinking to one housing just 70 has sent shockwaves through the community, and the medical community at Bellevue has been no exception.

But, said Hicks, “We’re doing our best to stay plugged in and we need to be mindful about what the impacts are. How will that affect our ED (emergency department) and our inpatient care? In an area where we may not have a lot of capacity?”

Asked if his hospital, which has 844 beds that are usually around 90 percent occupied, is prepared for an uptick in patients, Hicks said there is a “surge” plan in place.

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Bellevue Hospital to build flood wall

Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal has expressed concern about the project's construction. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal has expressed concern about the project’s construction. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Bellevue Hospital is in the beginning stages of a plan that aims to protect the facility from future Hurricane Sandys and released an environmental assessment on the project at the beginning of July. The document is the first the Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC), Bellevue’s parent organization, has released concerning the project and outlines the most viable alternative, a comprehensive mitigation system, which consists of a “perimeter boundary protection system” or flood wall around the hospital center. It will include a series of connected permanent and removable walls and integrated flood gates, as well as new elevators, a secondary domestic water pumping system, relocation of the HVAC equipment to above the 500-year flood plain and other features.

Other alternatives that were discussed in the document but that were ultimately dismissed include relocation of the hospital center or just a flood wall with no other changes. Relocation is not being considered because HHC does not think it practical to abandon the infrastructure investments that have been made on the existing site. The second alternative has been dismissed because while it is expected to provide similar flood protection to the wall in the selected plan, HHC wanted to incorporate a “Multiple Lines of Defense” strategy.

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Bellevue to host breast cancer info events

A previous breast cancer informational event at Bellevue Hospital

A previous breast cancer informational event at Bellevue Hospital

Bellevue Hospital and Metropolitan Hospital Center will host multiple breast health education events in May to emphasize to women in Manhattan that prevention, screening, and early detection are the best defenses against breast cancer. Patients can also schedule an appointment for a mammogram. It is recommended that women 40 and over schedule a mammogram every one to two years.

At Bellevue, 462 First Avenue (27th Street) a breast cancer informational event will be held in the atrium lobby on May 14, 21 and 28 from 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

At Metropolitan Hospital Center, 1901 First Avenue, a breast cancer informational event will be offered in the lobby on May 14 and 29 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

“It has been HHC’s mission and goal to help all New Yorkers live the healthiest life possible and we have been at the forefront of providing preventive health screenings in New York City,” said HHC President Dr. Ram Raju. “A mammography saves lives and we encourage people to make use of this opportunity to get screened.”

In 2014, hospitals in the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (Bellevue and Metropolitan’s parent organization) performed more than 103,000 mammograms.

For more information, visit the website.

Ebola doc goes home

Mayor de Blasio applauded the work of both Dr Spencer in Africa and the Bellevue medics (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Mayor de Blasio applauded the work of both Dr Spencer in Africa and the Bellevue medics (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Mayor Bill de Blasio was at Bellevue Hospital as Dr. Craig Spencer, New York City’s first and only case of Ebola, was discharged on Tuesday morning.

“Dr. Spencer is Ebola free and New York is Ebola free,” the mayor announced at the news conference, attended by Spencer, his parents and the team of doctors and nurses who were responsible for his care.

Mayor de Blasio emphasized the importance of the work that Spencer had been doing in Guinea before he returned to New York. “It’s a good feeling to hug a hero, and he is a hero,” the mayor said.

Dr. Ram Raju, president of the Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC), echoed this sentiment.

“I’m elated because we could treat and cure a hero and Dr. Spencer personified this,” he said. “Had he not contracted Ebola, few people would ever have known him and there are many more like him. They are the heroes of our time.”

Spencer, in turn, tried to bring the focus away from himself and back to the efforts in West Africa where doctors are still fighting the virus.

“My infection represents but a fraction of the more than 13,000 reported cases to date in West Africa,” he said, recounting the sadness he felt when holding infected children and the joy he felt when patients were cured. “I will not be commenting publicly beyond this and urge you to focus on the source of the outbreak.”

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