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New Queens Hospital set to open next month

When Queens Hospital Center officially opens its new facility next month, borough residents will be treated to the first new public hospital in New York City’s recent memory.

The $147 million, 200-bed hospital will replace buildings that the public institution has used since 1935 with modern “centers of excellence” in women’s health, cancer and diabetes care in addition to general medical services and mental health care.

The five-story, glass-covered building is already standing on 164th Street just north of the Grand Central Parkway, but the grand opening has been pushed back from this summer to October as work continues inside the hospital, said QHC spokeswoman Lata Vasconcellos.

While several city hospitals have been renovated over the years, Vasconcellos could think of the last time a city medical institution was built from the ground up.

Sunlight pours into the wide-open spaces of the first floor’s lobby and waiting room for medical, specialty and pediatric clinics, which recently started accepting patients.

The lobby, which will soon have a waiting area, connects with an outdoor patio, while escalators lead to the women’s center on the second floor. Silver-colored signs direct visitors to elevators, bathrooms and waiting rooms.

As a public facility, Queens Hospital Center accepts all patients regardless of their ability to pay, Vasconcellos said.

The hospital serves about 950,000 residents of southeast Queens and the Rockaways, she said.

About 60 percent of the patients are black or Hispanic, but the hospital also serves the borough’s growing population of immigrants from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Guyana, the Caribbean, and other nations, Vasconcellos said. Culturally diverse interior decorations are planned for the hospital’s waiting rooms and nurses’ stations, Vasconcellos said.

On the hospital’s fifth floor cancer center, a glass divider in one of the future treatment rooms is etched with a six-foot-high circular design that appears to have been inspired by South Asian culture.

“Environment is very important,” Vasconcellos said. “A lot of time and consideration went into the development of the environment, which affects the patients’ mental health.”

The hospital’s staff is multilingual. “We can accommodate almost every language, including sub-dialects,” Vasconcellos said. When a common language cannot be found, the hospital uses a translation service, she said.

Each segment of the hospital’s in-patient wings is painted with a different vivid color, while a deep maroon tile floor links them all.

Circular nurses’ stations are surrounded by patients’ rooms and meeting areas, which on some floors also have outdoor seating areas.

The three “centers of excellence,” as planners describe them, were also developed with the population of southeast Queens in mind. For example, diabetes is particularly prevalent in black, Asian and Indian communities, Vasconcellos said.

Cancer services are also needed in Queens since many residents have to travel into Manhattan for quality care, Vasconcellos said.

The women’s center aims to serve every generation from teenage through the child-bearing years and after menopause, she said.

A wider variety of food is planned to be offered to visitors. The facility will not have a traditional cafeteria, but instead offers a pizzeria. Administrators are encouraging merchants and food vendors to set up shop in the building, Vasconcellos said.

Patients who have been admitted to the hospital, however, will still be given traditional food from the medical center’s kitchen, Vasconcellos said.

The hospital was designed by the architectural firm Perkins & Will/Davis Brody Bond under the supervision of the state Dormitory Authority. Funds for the project were secured by Mayor Giuliani and Queens Borough President Claire Shulman in 1997.

“The borough president really advocated funding to this hospital,” Vasconcellos said. “It is to her credit that this has happened under her administration.”

Shulman was a nurse at Queens Hospital before she became borough president.

Two buildings on the hospital’s campus were razed in 1998 to make room for the new facility, which will combine the services previously spread out over the campus.

Some of the other old buildings will be taken down to make way for a parking garage, while others will be retained for administrative purposes, Vasconcellos said.

Although the new hospital will have several dozen fewer beds than the old one, the care it offers with 42 out-patient clinics was designed to keep people healthier and prevent hospital stays, Vasconcellos said.

The clinics, many of which are already accepting patients on the new hospital’s first floor, are broken into three categories: general medicine, sub-specialty and pediatric.

The specialty clinics include a breast clinic, plastic surgery, surgery, urology, diabetes, dietitian, orthopedics, and many more. Hours are on a rotational schedule opening as early at 8 a.m. and closing as late at 9:30 p.m.

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300 Ext. 138.

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