NYC Health + Hospitals
Annual Public Meeting – Queens
Tuesday, May, 25, 2021
Report by Dr. Mitchell Katz, President and CEO
A little over one year ago our health care system admitted its first patient with COVID-19.
Our heroic front-line care teams faced the unimaginable. We experienced the same fears, loss, trauma and anxiety that the rest of our City and our country felt.
We quickly came together as one unified health system to support and keep each other and our patients safe, and to save lives in every community across the City.
We fought COVID-19 hard – with commitment, compassion and innovation. During the first surge, we tripled ICU spaces, on boarded thousands of additional nurses and clinicians, helped facilities hardest hit to level the load by transporting patients to other hospitals in our system, and secured many millions of face masks and other PPE to keep everyone safe.
Those experiences made us a stronger more efficient health system, and we have been able to manage the recent second wave of increased cases with more confidence and understanding of how this deadly virus can be fought.
It is nothing short of a miracle that in just one year, there are now multiple vaccines available and the end of the suffering is in sight.
And while there is much hope ahead thanks to our hard work, we still grieve the friends, relatives and coworkers lost to this pandemic.
I want to take this moment to reflect with great pride the contributions made by every single employee at NYC Health + Hospitals and to thank our community partners for their love and support over the last year. Those 7:00 pm clap-outs really lifted our spirits and reminded us of our essential role.
I especially want to thank the Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. for his recent allocation of $5.5 million to support the renovation of intensive care units, operating rooms, and other infrastructure projects at NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst. As we all know, the health care heroes at Elmhurst were in the epicenter of the pandemic – they proved to be a backbone of the borough of Queens during the horrible COVID-19 pandemic, and the infrastructure improvements supported by this generous allocation will make our community hospital bigger and stronger. The Borough President’s continued support and advocacy helps us deliver the high-quality, state-of-the-art care residents of this great borough deserve.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how necessary New York City’s public health system and its employees truly are — particularly all of our hospitals and Gotham Health centers in the borough of Queens. NYC Health + Hospitals has proven that there is no challenge we cannot overcome when it is about protecting the health of the most vulnerable New Yorkers under our care.
Thanks to the sacrifices made by our brave staff and their readiness to answer a higher calling over the last year, NYC Health + Hospitals has been there for our staff, our patients and all New Yorkers at every step of this pandemic.
Our hospitals and post-acute care facilities have provided quality, compassionate care to thousands who were gravely ill and saved so many lives.
In the last year, our emergency departments have managed more than 111,000 COVID-19 patient visits and more than 55,000 patients who were hospitalized due to COVID-19 have been safely discharged from our hospitals. New Yorkers trusted our hospitals and clinics with their care.
Thanks to our Helping Healers Heal program, we supported our staff with peer counseling, respite rooms, and a range of mental health services to help them endure and prevail. And with more than $35 million in donations from so many generous supporters, we were able to offer our staff– free meals, transportation, clean scrubs, hotel accommodations, and child care to help ease their difficult days.
Testing, Tracing and Taking Care
We prioritized testing since the early months of the first surge, setting up tents and launching the country’s most successful test and trace operation – the NYC Test & Trace Corps. In the last year, our hospitals, Gotham Health Centers, Correctional Health Services and the Test & Trace Corps testing sites have done more than 3 million COVID-19 tests. Thousands of New Yorkers experienced for the first time the dedication and passion of the employees in our health system.
To help New Yorkers navigate this process, we activated a specialized group of Contact Tracers to provide resources and support to New Yorkers who test positive for COVID-19 and their close contacts. Our team of 4,000 contact tracers has reached a higher proportion of all new cases than any other jurisdiction we are familiar with in the county.
Our hotel program to help New Yorkers safely separate if they feel sick or have been exposed to the virus has reached the milestone of 18,000 guests who have received a free and safe hotel room, with free meals, round trip transportation, and onsite clinical monitoring.
We prioritized vaccination for our employees and our most vulnerable patients, and launched the NYC Vax Champ campaign to educate and address vaccine hesitancy among our staff and community.
Despite the challenges of an unreliable source of vaccine supply, we extended hours, added more staff, provided 24/7 services in our Gotham Health/Vanderbilt clinic on Staten Island, and created new mass vaccinations sites like CitiField that are managed by our NYC Test & Trace Crops. So far, our health system has been able to administer more than 600,000 first and second doses.
Our ambulatory care teams are serving more than 34,000 patients who had COVID-19 – many of them will face a range of long-term health effects.
Our investment to open three new COVID-19 Centers of Excellence in Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens communities hardest hit will ensure access to the specialized care New Yorkers will need to address long-term respiratory, cognitive and cardiac conditions caused by the virus. At these sites, we will be with our patients at every step of their recovery.
* * * * * * * *
We remain aware of how this pandemic worsened the inequities in health care. It created fissures in almost every other part of society too — from education to the economy.
These inequities are already having a disproportionate effect on the health of the patients and communities we serve. That is why we must intensify our commitment to health equity, diversity and inclusion in every aspect of our work – from clinical care to language access services.
One year with COVID-19 has shown us the strength of our health system and employees, the incredible humanity we have lost, and the way to move forward but not forget.
I am so grateful and proud of our staff for everything they have done and continue to do for the thousands of New Yorkers who call NYC Health + Hospitals their health care home.
* * * * * * * *
Thank you for being here tonight and for your support of our essential public health care system.
Now let’s proceed to the main purpose of tonight’s meeting – to hear from you, members of our community. Your input is so important to the future success of this system. We are ready to listen.
I will now turn to Andrea Cohen to outline the proceeding for tonight’s meeting.
# # #