Fallen heroes honored at opening of new ER

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New York Hospital Medical Center of Queens officially opened its emergency room last week with a somber ceremony honoring 486 fallen uniformed members of the New York City emergency service who had died in the line of duty between 1957 and 2001 while serving the Queens community.

On July 18, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Borough President Claire Shulman, District Attorney Richard Brown, Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen and the hospital’s leadership formally dedicated the new emergency room and then buried a time capsule with the names of the late emergency service workers, along with the memories of the doctors, nurses and employees who had worked in the ER over the years.

“Only once in a while we remember a particular person, a patient that we will never forget,” said Barbara McVea, an emergency room nurse who contributed her comments to the time capsule. “For me, that patient was Mr. Tony Shands, a New York City fireman.”

She said he was brought in after being hit by a drunk driver while on call. The ER staff battled to save him, she said, but in the end he died.

“The silence was deafening,” McVea said. “While we had done every possible thing, we were profoundly sad that this was a young man and fireman.”

The ER, which opened on Dec. 27, is equipped to treat more than 55,000 patients a year suffering from a severe illness, an accident or a crime-related injury. One of the busiest emergency rooms in Queens, it also features a Level 1 trauma center, the highest level of trauma care, said Paul Pickard, a hospital spokesman.

Two other hospitals in the borough, Jamaica Hospital and Elmhurst Hospital, offer Level 1 trauma care, which treats shootings, stabbings or other life-threatening injuries. NYHQ treats about 1,000 trauma patients per year, he said.

“The new emergency room allows you to do even more — even without that you do excellent work,” Giuliani said. “It is also quite fitting that you are honoring the men and women who have lost their lives serving the borough of Queens.”

The mayor praised the work of Shulman and Brown. He said the two have been tireless workers and advocates for Queens residents.

He said it was of enormous significance that in addition to officially opening the hospital’s new emergency room, the people who serve the borough were honored.

“It is always a special day when you honor the NYPD and the Fire Department,” said Shulman. “But to honor them in this very special way with a state-of-the-art emergency room that can save lives is a very special thing.”

New York Hospital over the years has given “wonderful care” to the people of the borough, she said. The hospital was the first to provide tertiary care for people in Queens and the new ER will make it easier for the borough’s residents to receive treatment.

The hospital was started in 1957 when the city took over a Salvation Army Hospital. and until 1993 it was known as Booth Memorial hospital.

“Our people had to go other places for specialized care,” Shulman said. “This is very important to the borough because we have the largest senior population in the city of New York. We have over 400,000 senior citizens.”

Janice Lau, an ER doctor who contributed her memories, said she was privileged to be part of NYHQ Emergency Department.

“Our job is, indeed, a sacred one: to help another at his or her most difficult and anxious moment,” she said, “moreover, to be compassionate and caring when needed the most. That makes all of the difference.”

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

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