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Chest pain center planned for Elmhurst Hospital

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An Elmhurst hospital will be adding a new chest pain center to its emergency service center next year, but even people without cardiac ailments should rejoice.

The Elmhurst Hospital Center, at 79-01 Broadway, received $1 million Friday to help build the new facility. The six-bed center will help diagnose and analyze patients complaining of chest pain, but will also divert cardiac patients away from an already-overcrowded emergency room, hospital officials said.

“Cardiac disease continues to grow in the community,” said Christopher Constantino, executive director of the hospital. “And now we can bring better services to these patients in less time.”

Doctors and nurses at the center, called the Chest Pain Observation Unit, will not only diagnose the various causes of chest pain, but can also treat the patients on site or send them to other care facilities in the neighborhood, which will alleviate pressure on an overworked hospital staff who have served a growing number of patients after two other care facilities in the area closed.

St. John’s Hospital in Elmhurst and Mary Immaculate Hospital in Jamaica closed two years ago, although the fallout is still palpable at the Elmhurst facility.

“Our volume is up 15 percent now that St. John’s closed,” Constantino said, adding that the Elmhurst emergency room is now one of the busiest in New York.

Constantino hopes that by diverting the chest pain sufferers away from the general emergency room patients, it will help both parties — chest pain victims get quicker care and other patients wait for less time.

The money was allocated in the City Council’s budget after Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) requested the funds for the overcrowded medical center.

“There is a need to expand medical services in my area,” Dromm said, “I wanted to give them expanded space to make hospital visits easier.”

The need to combat overcrowding is not only because other hospitals closed, Dromm added. The problem also stems from people who use the hospital for non-emergency ailments.

“Many people use the hospital like a doctor’s office,” Dromm said. “An overwhelming number of people come to the ER.”

The check for a cool million will cover 83 percent of the projected cost. The extra $200,000 will have to be raised by other means, but hospital staffers did not express concern at the news conference held Friday.

Construction crews were scheduled to break ground next summer and the center should be open by December 2011.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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