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Children’s ER opens at Jamaica Hospital

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Jamaica Hospital Medical Center opened a new pediatric emergency department Monday with help from its little friends: elementary school students from local public schools.

The children played the roles of doctors at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for what is now the largest pediatric emergency room in Queens. Dressed in miniature scrubs, complete with stethoscopes, the kids were assisted by U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) as well as City Councilmen Alfonso Stabile (R-Ozone Park), Sheldon Leffler (D-Hollis), and Archie Spigner (D-St. Albans) and some of the hospital's real doctors.

"It's a good, modern facility," Leffler said while touring the new ER. "I think it's needed due to the rise in population in this area, particularly the young families."

Designed to meet the growing number of pediatric emergencies in southern Queens and eastern Brooklyn, the kid-friendly ER has nine examining rooms and 15 asthma treatment stations.

Dr. Elliott Friedman, the director of pediatric emergency services at JHMC, said the new ER has the capacity to serve 45,000 to 60,000 pediatric patients a year, more than three times the number the hospital saw last year.

JHMC is a 387-bed, not-for-profit teaching hospital, which serves more than 500,000 Queens and Brooklyn residents.

Rain forest animals border the walls of the new ER, where ceramic turtles crawl across the tiles. Trees sprout from the nurses' station and in the waiting room.

The thoughtful decorations should relieve some of the young children's anxiety, said JHMC Executive Vice President Bruce Flanz.

"Today we are happy we will be able to serve the community with a nice facility," Flanz said. "The caliber of care will still be the same, but it will be nicer for the children to see animal characters."

Weiner also approved of the jungle motif and reminded the audience at the ribbon-cutting ceremony that a child's imagination can run wild when he or she is taken to the ER.

Weiner recounted that when he was 6 years old, he got his hand stuck in an elevator door. On the way to the ER, his 8-year-old brother fully convinced him his broken hand would be replaced with a robotic one.

While the crowd of hospital staff, politicians and community members laughed at the congressman's story, Stabile spoke of more serious visits to the hospital, where his 18-year-old son died after a car accident.

"This hospital to me is a second home," Stabile said. "It doesn't just serve a community, it serves a city."

The ceremony concluded with the mini-doctors cutting the ribbon. Lucky participants included Tara Thomas and Stephanie Jones from PS 123 in Ozone Park, Taylor Goodwin and Janay Amos from PS 50 in Jamaica, Courtney Baptiste from PS 35 in Hollis, Rosemary Davila and Jayonia Griffin from PS 155 in Ozone Park, and John Sakelos from PS 56 in Richmond Hill.

The first- and second-grade students were chosen by their principals and selected because of their good grades and attendance.

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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