Lions Club, Floating Hospital Discuss Local Health Care
At the August 10 meeting at the Riverview Restaurant on Center Boulevard in Hunters Point, the Lions Club of Long Island City and Astoria and The Floating Hospital (TFH) Community Health Clinic spoke of expanding health facilities locally by trying to establish relatively small units, rather than a big complex that would be prohibitively expensive and, in light of other area hospitals’ demise, might prove too big to succeed.
Among those attending the meeting were Marcel Veronneau and Arthur Rosenfield of the Lions Club; Cynthia Davis and Suzanne Culhane of the Floating Hospital; Joshua Schipper of Vernon Boulevard Pharmacy, and Nick Vaglica of Nationwide Insurance and Financial Services.
As far as Long Island City is concerned, Schipper’s declaration to TFH’s Davis and Culhane was succinct: “New health care is you guys.” Davis, TFH’s outreach manager, gave everyone a quick history of the institution, which began in 1866 in Manhattan with a donated sailing ship that provided fresh air on the river for newsboys. Medical and health services soon followed and TFH established a great tradition in New York, to the point where it could retain its name even after maintaining a ship was no longer feasible and the waterborne health service became entirely land-based. There are currently 12 program sites in Brooklyn, The Bronx and Queens, with 130 staff members. They see 80,000 patient visits per year. The Long Island City community clinic, located on Crescent Street near Queens Plaza, was established only after 9/11 and is one of TFH’s three core programs, the other two being dedicated to homeless families and adolescents at risk. Among its current services are exams and immunizations, gynecology, management of chronic problems, including asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure and sexually transmitted diseases, HIV testing and counseling, dental services and cardiology. An annual operating budget of $15 million is funded by government grants and contracts, reimbursements and charitable giving from individuals, groups, foundations and corporations. Culhane said the main source is individual contributions, though she cited corporate efforts such as the one by Gary Kesner of Silvercup Studios to liaise with developers in Hunters Point, such as Rockrose Corp. An award of $3 million from the Obama Administration was presented to TFH so it could focus on services to public housing, such as Queensbridge and Ravenswood. TFH is affiliated with New York University Hospital in Manhattan and Wykcoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn and is in the process of affiliating with Mount Sinai Queens Hospital.
TFH’s presence in Long Island City must be augmented by the creation of other local health facilities, but its status as a vibrant entity makes it the one to consult when considering the health care shortage. Maintaining its vibrancy is one step toward broadening health care in Long Island City, the meeting’s members agreed. TFH suffered a recent setback when one of its fleet of some half-dozen vans for transporting patients had to be shut down because it was too expensive to maintain. Marcel Veronneau, a vice president of the Long Island City Lions said that if funded, that van could be in operation again, as did Arthur Rosenfield, also of the Lions Club and the nascent Long Island City Chamber of Commerce. Nick Vaglica of the Vaglica Agency and Nationwide Insurance, spoke of promoting employee giving and other means of raising funds. Veronneau suggested the Live at the Gantry summer music functions by the East River could be an occasion to park the currently idle van nearby and solicit funds for its revival.
Culhane of TFH said she is always looking for fundraising opportunities, grand or modest, and appreciated what she heard at the meeting, which was recognized as a first step but still, in her words, “just what we needed”.