2011-01-26 / Editorials

Queens Hospitals Offer Superb Care

For many years, some Queens residents thought that the only good health care available was to be found across the East River in Manhattan. We are happy to note that this mistaken idea has long since been dispelled. The quality of health care to be found in this borough is the equal of and in some instances, superior to, that found in New York county. (Care in this borough has the added advantage of being closer. No one in the borough of Queens is more than a few minutes’ ambulance ride away from a healthcare facility.)

Western Queens, to cite just one area in this farflung borough, is served by two of the finest hospitals to be found anywhere. Mount Sinai Queens Hospital in just the past few years has been named a stroke center-the only such facility in Queens. (Its sister institution, Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, is the only other facility so named in New York City.)

The facility now known as the Mount Sinai Hospital of Queens began its life of service to the community in 1909 as Daly’s Astoria Sanatorium. The original hospital still exists today behind the main hospital building and houses many staff functions, including the Departments of Nursing and Medical Records. From 1952 to 1999 it was known as Astoria General and then Western Queens Hospital. For most of its history, it was owned by a group of physicians who built the present hospital in two phases: the first three floors of the existing inpatient building and then an additional three floors. In 1972, a group of investors purchased the hospital and remained its owners until 1999, when it first became affiliated with Mount Sinai Hospital. Remodeling, renovation and expanding continued as both hospitals strengthened their affiliation. In 2009, Mount Sinai Queens extensively renovated all its operating rooms, overhauled its emergency and radiology departments and put all its records on electronic storage media for better preservation and faster access.

Proposed expansion plan for Mount Sinai include building a nine-story tower to replace the outmoded physical facilities, adding 73 hospital beds, bringing the total to 265 beds; a 10,600- square-foot emergency department; five supplementary operating rooms; building rooms with one and two beds; adding bathrooms to each room as opposed to bathrooms in the hallways, now the case in many instances, and a new ambulance drop-off. Staffing has kept pace with the expanded facility, as well. More than 400 physicians represent 36 medical and surgical specialties and nursing and ancillary personnel in quality and quantity match any facility to be found anywhere.

Western Queens’ public hospital, Elmhurst Hospital Center (EHC), is also expanding facilities and programs to meet the changing needs of the growing community it serves. In the past three years, the hospital opened the six-story, 24,000- square-foot $11.6 million Hope Pavilion, a new state-of-the-art, comprehensive cancer treatment facility that will also house the EHC World Trade Center Environmental Healthcare Center and Chest Clinic, which offers treatment to people having health problems as a result of 9/11. At the end of 2008, the hospital installed a 64-slice CT scanner that produces detailed pictures of any organ in a few seconds. EHC opened a lactation clinic for new mothers, a renovated psychiatric emergency room and a greenmarket on its grounds. It holds pedestrian injury summit conferences and earned high honors for its organ donor program. It is regarded as one of the premier facilities among New York City’s public hospitals.

Queens is fortunate, indeed, to have fine public and private healthcare facilities. Even so, the borough is treading a fine line in being able to offer healthcare services. Within the past three years, St. John’s, Mary Immaculate and Parkway Hospitals in Elmhurst, Jamaica and Forest Hills, respectively, closed their doors. Mount Sinai Queens, EHC, Flushing Hospital, Queens Hospital Center and the borough’s other public and private healthcare facilities have done yeoman work in taking up the slack, but the fact remains: healthcare facilities in Queens are at or near capacity and their ability to care for the residents of this borough who seek their aid is in danger of becoming compromised.

In November 2009, Elmhurst Hospital Center hosted Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation President Alan D. Aviles as they announced the construction of the nation’s first medical training technology center where hands-on simulation and training for healthcare provider individuals and teams will be offered. “New York City has the best health facilities in the country,” Bloomberg announced on that occasion. “The life expectancy of an average New Yorker is fifteen months longer than it was two years ago. We are always looking for ways to advance health care in our city.” We urge the mayor to assist in facilitating more and better health care throughout the city, and especially here in Queens. The borough’s residents deserve no less.

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