Public wants boro officials to maintain health services

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Members of the public urged the city Health and Hospitals Corporation to keep its chemical dependency program open, help ease the shortage of nurses, and improve bilingual services in hospitals during an annual public meeting at the Queens Hospital Center last Thursday night.

“I started drinking in 1989, and this program saved my life,” said Dorris Ivory, a member of an outpatient chemical dependency program for people 55 and older, told HHC’s board of directors. “Please stop the cutting of the budget. It’s very important.”

Dr. Benjamin Chu, the president of HHC, an umbrella organization that runs Queens Hospital Center, Elmhurst Hospital Center and nine other acute care hospitals throughout the city, said he was impressed by Ivory’s comments, and that he would definitely look into proposed cuts to the program.

Chu added that HHC is a $4 billion corporation that operates so many programs it can be easy to overlook the importance of one particular program.

One goal HHC is working on is to have patients come in, make it through the public hospital system and leave with prescription in hand in less than an hour, said Chu. Another goal is to give patients same or next day appointments.

James Pomper, a registered nurse who has been employed at Elmhurst Hospital for the past 26 years, told the board that more nurses were needed, especially to deal with the tremendous rate of patient admissions and discharges from hospitals.

“The nurses have to get admission histories, medications, and then when they’re discharged, they have to educate the patients about medications and treatments,” said Pomper. “I think there’s not enough nurses given how many patients come in and go out.”

Alan Chen, a Bayside resident, said he was trying to relieve the shortage of nurses by setting up a company to bring qualified nurses from overseas.

“It’s a cost-effective way of hiring people,” said Chen, whose company, Prime Health Care Network, is in the planning stages.

Several members of the public pointed out the need for multilingual services, given the highly diverse communities that the hospitals serve.

“A language barrier is very difficult when it comes to quick decision making,” said Sadiq Mohammed, a member of the community advisory board for Queens Hospital Center. “The hospital needs bilingual specialists in order to help patients.”

Both Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) and Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) praised the Queens hospitals’ efforts to reach out to the community. Liu also spoke about the need to educate immigrants about their medical rights, while Comrie emphasized the need for public hospitals to be reimbursed by Medicaid at the same rate as private hospitals.

“It’s always important to come out and have a public forum,” said Chu. “Sometimes it’s just a different take on what we do. We’re a public institution and we should be held publicly accountable.”

In addition to holding annual public meetings in every borough, HHC holds regular meetings with community advisory boards, the community outreach organizations for hospitals and other health care institutions that are part of HHC.

Free flu shots and information about Medicaid and Family Health Plus insurance programs were given out at the meeting.

Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at, or call 229-0300, Ext. 155.

Posted 7:25 pm, October 10, 2011
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