NYC Health + Hospitals today observed the beginning of NYC Immigrant Heritage Week. The week commemorates April 17, 1907 when 11,000 immigrants – the most in one day – passed through Ellis Island. NYC Health + Hospitals is the safety net for the uninsured and underserved in New York City, providing health care services to over one million New Yorkers each year — many of whom are immigrants. As part of its mission, the public health system provides care to everyone, regardless of their immigration status, ability to pay, gender identity, disability, or national origin. Through its heath care, language and legal access programs, the health system’s accessible, culturally, linguistically appropriate services ensure full access to comprehensive and quality care for all New Yorkers. The health system’s facilities do not collect information on a patient’s immigration status and it never releases patient information without authorization by the patient or without being required to do so by law.
“At NYC Health + Hospitals we welcome everyone through our doors, and our mission is to create a safe environment for all New Yorkers to get the care they need,” said NYC Health + Hospitals President and CEO Mitchell Katz, MD. “Many of our doctors, nurses, and staff are immigrants – they speak our patients’ languages and they understand their culture. We are the hospital system that looks like New York City and takes care of New York City.”
NYC Care: A National Health Care Model
NYC Care is a health care access program that guarantees low-cost and no-cost services to New Yorkers who do not qualify for or cannot afford health insurance. NYC Care became available at NYC Health + Hospitals locations in the Bronx starting in August 2019 and is now available across all five boroughs. NYC Care’s mission is to change the way the City’s public health care system connects the most vulnerable New Yorkers to primary and specialty care, regardless of immigration status or ability to pay.
NYC Care members speak 46 different languages with Spanish being the most common (60 percent). Other top languages include English, Chinese, Russian and Polish. Approximately 81 percent of current NYC Care members live in the 33 neighborhoods identified by the NYC Taskforce on Racial Inclusion and Equity as hardest hit by COVID-19. The program just reached its 100,000th member in February. Those interested in the program can call 646-NYC CARE (646-692-2273).
“Seek Care Without Fear”
NYC Health + Hospitals has consistently advocated for immigrant health care and safety. The health system’s facilities do not collect information on a patient’s immigration status and it never releases patient information without authorization by the patient or without being required to do so by law.
In 2019, the health system in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs re-released a joint open letter to New Yorkers in 14 languages making a promise that no one will question their immigration status when they seek care at any of the public hospitals or community health centers across the five boroughs. The letter reaffirmed the health system’s commitment to protecting the immigration status of New Yorkers and urged immigrants to seek care without fear.
Language Access = Better, Safer Care
In New York City there are over 200 languages spoken throughout the five boroughs. NYC Health + Hospitals invests approximately $10 million annually to provide 24/7 assistance in 200 languages and dialects through telephonic, video and in-person interpretation, including sign-language services, to ensure patients receive safe, quality care in their language. The health system responds to 1 million requests for interpretation services annually, which translates into more than 13 million minutes of interpretation services every year. Evidence shows that health care services provided in the patient’s primary language leads to fewer medical errors and increases medication adherence and compliance with doctors’ recommendations.
This month, NYC Health + Hospitals graduated 88 employees from its medical interpreter skills training course. Sponsored by the Office of Diversity & Inclusion, the 40-hour course is in Spanish. The program allows the public health system to expand its linguistic capabilities. Training participants were from the health system’s hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities. The training is free for employees and voluntary.
Legal Services are Health Care
In 2019, NYC Health + Hospitals expanded patient access to on-site legal services for immigration issues. This groundbreaking program – the longest-running and largest medical/legal partnership in the country dates back to 2002 – addresses patients’ legal matters and concerns. Lawyers, based at hospital and clinic facilities, can address matters related to residency, citizenship, visas, and asylum.
These services are available at a total of seven patient care sites, which also include: NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst, Kings County, and Bellevue, and NYC Health + Hospitals/ Gotham, Health, Gouverneur, Morrisania, and Cumberland. Referrals to attorneys are typically coordinated by the public health system’s social workers and can be secured within one or two weeks.
NYC Health + Hospitals is the largest public health care system in the nation serving more than a million New Yorkers annually in more than 70 patient care locations across the city’s five boroughs. A robust network of outpatient, neighborhood-based primary and specialty care centers anchors care coordination with the system’s trauma centers, nursing homes, post-acute care centers, home care agency, and MetroPlus health plan—all supported by 11 essential hospitals. Its diverse workforce of more than 42,000 employees is uniquely focused on empowering New Yorkers, without exception, to live the healthiest life possible. For more information, visit www.nychealthandhospitals.org and stay connected on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NYCHealthSystem or Twitter at @NYCHealthSystem.