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Mitchell H. Katz, MD
January 27, 2022


We entered 2022 with record-high levels of COVID due to the most formidable Omicron variant and holiday gatherings. Once again, our hospitals filled up with patients needing our help. The demand for our testing and vaccination services reached an all-time high. We doubled our isolation hotel rooms to accommodate all the New Yorkers who needed to quarantine to protect their families. And so many of us got sick and needed to lie under the covers with our sore throats and hacking coughs, worried about our teammates left stretched by our absence.

But I am pleased to report that the omicron wave is leveling off and all the pandemic markers are going in the right direction. We have started to see decrease in cases and hospitalizations. But we cannot let our defenses down and will continue to activate all the tools at our disposal – testing, tracing, isolation, vaccination and boosters, and all the operational and emotional support we can offer our heroic, front-line teams.

Through this surge, NYC Health + Hospitals and our Test & Trace Corps team have continued to lead Citywide pandemic response efforts. Here are some recent highlights:

  • NYC reached the highest vaccination rates in the nation- reaching more than 16 million doses administered Citywide
  • More than one million masks distributed since January 1, 2022
  • More than 2.5 million New Yorkers have taken their booster shot
  • NYC Health + Hospitals has administered more than 1.6 million total vaccine doses
  • We opened 150 new testing sites since the latest surge
  • We have doubled the number of city-run sites, and tripled the number of tests (1.5M tests)
  • In the first week of January, city run sites were doing nearly 1/3 of testing citywide. On January 3, we did 67k tests, compared to less than 20k per day before omicron
  • Since the latest surge, city run sites have done 1.4M tests (9M overall)
  • We have distributed over 4M at home tests to schools
  • We set up testing outside 37 hospital EDs (20k tests)

It is too soon to know if this points to the beginning of the end of the pandemic. We remain hopeful and vigilant – by following all the other best practices, wearing masks and eye protection when caring for patients, social distancing and getting our booster shots.

Mayor Adams Invests in NYC Health + Hospitals to Fight Omicron Surge – Mayor Eric Adams this month announced the City will commit nearly $145 million in resources to support safety net hospitals, and allow NYC Health + Hospitals and the City Department of Health to increase staffing and fight the Omicron surge. The additional COVID-19 funding secured by Mayor Adams will help us further secure necessary staff that will not only help care for New Yorkers during our Omicron surge, but also provide relief to our healthcare heroes who have been on the frontline of this pandemic for nearly two years. Our public health System’s extraordinary COVID-19 response would not have been possible without the continued support and advocacy of our Citywide leaders and partners.

NYC Health + Hospitals/Coney Island welcomes U.S. Department of Defense (Do) Medical Team – The DoD team arrived at Coney Island Hospital this week to support health care workers on the front lines in the continued battle against COVID-19. The team includes physicians, RNs, LPNs, Army medics, and respiratory technicians who will support key areas such as the ED, ICU, and the medical-surgery unit to ensure uninterrupted and timely care continues to be delivered. The team arrived on Saturday, January 22nd, and went through an orientation and training on hospital policies and procedures, and began their first full day of work on Monday, January 24. They will be supporting our hospital team for at least 30 days. We expect a similar DoD team to arrive at NYC Health + Hospitals/North Central Bronx next week. Our health care heroes have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and deserve a much-needed break. We are grateful to Governor Hochul for making the request and to the Biden Administration and Department of Defense for sending medical teams and supporting our workforce.

Street Health Outreach & Wellness – The NYC Health + Hospitals SHOW mobile units have offered services to over 100,000 unique New Yorkers, with a focus on people experiencing homelessness. To date, those services include 50,000 COVID tests, 23,000 social worker engagements, 10,000 medical consultations, and over 5,000 vaccinations.

Booster Mandate for Health Care Workers – The New York State Department of Health is requiring all health care workers to get the COVID-19 booster vaccine in order to continue serving the people of New York. The booster shot is our best protection to reduce the risk of serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. It is safe, effective and conveniently available and at no cost to you.

HANYS Recognizes NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst for Employee Mental Health Support Services During Pandemic – NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst received the 2021 Pinnacle Award for Quality and Patient Safety by the Healthcare Association of New York State (HANYS) for its employee mental health support services provided during the pandemic. As part of our health System’s Helping Healers Heal (H3), the peer support program expanded within the hospital to reach all employees by engaging more peer support champions and meeting staff where they were. Peer support champions worked with mental health experts throughout the health System to facilitate wellness-rounds on the floors, host debrief sessions after adverse patient encounters, staff behavioral health employee-only hotline, and establish respite rooms for employees. We were fortunate to already have the foundation of our Helping Healers Heal program before the pandemic, which allowed us to quickly scale up and expand services when our healthcare heroes needed the emotional and psychological support the fastest during the early weeks of the pandemic. We continue to offer these critical support services to all employees, incorporating lessons learned through the pandemic, while also breaking down stigmas associated with mental health support that create negative and potentially unsafe environments for health care workers.


The City’s first baby of 2022 was welcomed at NYC Health + Hospitals/Coney Island at exactly 12:00 A.M. on January 1, 2022. Named Leyla Gessel Tzunun Garcia, the baby girl weighed in at 7 lbs. 6.3oz., and measured 19.5in. Leyla was born to parents Irma Garcia and German Tzunun of Gravesend, Brooklyn. The baby girl is their first child. Our health care system delivers approximately 16,000 babies annually, and more than 1,000 are born at NYC Health + Hospitals/Coney Island. We are proud to celebrate this annual tradition and continue to ensure New Yorkers high quality prenatal care, labor and delivery services, family planning, comprehensive gynecology, women’s health and primary care outpatient medical support for patients at every stage of life.


Federal – We once again express our deep thanks to Majority Leader Schumer and Representative Torres for pushing through the approval for our FEMA reimbursement. They, their teams, the State team, and our colleagues in City government have all been herculean. We are grateful.

State – Last week, the Governor proposed a $216.3 billion budget for State Fiscal Year (SFY) 2023, which begins April 1, 2022. The state operating budget increases by 3%, and includes Medicaid spending at $92 Billion. The proposed budget is balanced through SFY 2027, and allows for investments in health care based in part of increased tax receipts and increased Federal funding. We were pleased to see investments in health care this year, after years of State cuts. Many of the Governor’s proposals align with our advocacy priorities, including:

  • Recognition of our hard-working staff thorough a $1.2B workforce bonus;
  • Restoration of the prior 1.5% cut in Medicaid reimbursement and a 1% increase in Medicaid rates, increased funding for nursing home providers.
  • $1.6B in health care capital transformation. It will be especially important that NYC Health + Hospitals is able to access this funding equitably, as our system infrastructure is significantly older than other hospitals’.
  • Parity in telehealth reimbursement.
  • Creation of a NY State nurse loan repayment program;
  • Medicaid Expansion for low-income New Yorkers aged 65 and over and those with disabilities to maintain Medicaid eligibility after they become eligible for Medicare.

These are among the important and powerful initiatives in the Governor’s proposed budget. As the budget process proceeds, we will continue advocating for support for NYC Health + Hospitals and the patients and communities we serve. We are grateful to the Governor and DOH, as well as our partners in the State legislature who understand the critical role our safety net system plays. We also appreciate our Community Advisory Boards for their support in these important efforts.

City – We are pleased to have begun our work with Mayor Adams and team, particularly Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services Ann Williams-Isom, who joins us on our Board. We also offer congratulations to Council Speaker Adrienne Adams as she has appointed Council leaders, including new Hospital Committee Chair Mercedes Narcisse, who has been a registered nurse for over 30 years, and Health Committee Chair Lynn Schulman, who is an NYC Health + Hospitals alum and a staunch supporter of access to care. We are truly grateful to have so many partners and friends in the Council, and we look forward to our productive work together.


Georges H. Leconte, Mpa Fab, Rrt Appointed CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem – Georges Leconte has three decades of experience in hospital administration and direct patient care as a licensed respiratory therapist, and has served in various leadership roles in the NYC Health + Hospitals system since 1999. As CEO, he will help lead the hospital’s continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic and address the ongoing public health challenges some of the City’s hardest hit communities in NYC still face. He will also ensure the continued focus on employee wellness, clinical excellence, exceptional patient experience, fiscal integrity, and expanding access to quality, affordable and comprehensive health care for the Harlem community. Georges was selected after a national search for the role, with input from hospital staff and community members. Georges has proven his commitment to our health care system for over two decades, not only as a seasoned hospital administrator, but also by rolling up his sleeves and joining other frontline providers during the early days of the pandemic. That’s the team spirt and nimbleness that any leader and hospital CEO should have. Georges’ family emigrated to the United States from Haiti when he was 10 years old, and lived in Manhattan and Queens as a child. He attended Rice High School in Harlem. We are fortunate to have one of our own health care leaders to serve the Harlem Hospital staff, patients, and community members.

Stephen Catullo, MBA Appointed CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals/Coler – Stephen Catullo has nearly three decades of experience in health care delivery and administration, and has served in various leadership roles in the NYC Health + Hospitals skilled-nursing facility network since 1997. As CEO, Catullo will help lead the skilled-nursing facility in ensuring all residents and patients have convenient access to ongoing high-quality care and resources. Stephen was selected after an extensive search for the role, with input from internal post-acute care administrators, the Community Advisory Board, and Coler residents. His appointment is effective January 31, 2022. Our public health system is made up of thousands of passionate, expert health care professionals who have dedicated decades of their careers to our facilities, and Stephen is just another example of this. Stephen is bringing over twenty years of working within our system’s network of skilled-nursing facilities to his new role. That’s over twenty years of institutional knowledge and understanding of what our residents, patients, and their families deserve from their long-term care facility.

Michelle McMacken, MD, Facp, Dipablm Appointed Executive Director of Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine for NYC Health + Hospitals – Dr. McMacken’s appointment marks the next step in the evolution of our public health care system, making nutrition and lifestyle medicine core to how we deliver health care. In this newly created role, Dr. McMacken will lead system-wide efforts to advance nutrition and lifestyle education for patients and health care professionals, and increase patients’ access to nutritious foods and plant-based meals. She will also help expand dedicated lifestyle medicine services to support positive behavior changes, such as improved diet, physical activity, sleep, stress reduction, avoidance of risky substances, and social connection to reduce chronic disease risks. This work will build on Dr. McMacken’s work with the Plant-Based Lifestyle Medicine Program launched in 2019 at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue with the advocacy of then-Brooklyn Borough President and our new mayor, Eric Adams. Dr. McMacken will continue to practice in the NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue Adult Primary Care Center.


We deeply mourn the passing of our beloved friend and colleague, Maureen McClusky, who died from complications of brain cancer at her home this past Saturday. As Senior Vice President of our post-acute care operations for the past six years, Maureen was an innovative, empathic and courageous leader. She executed on the concept of the service line when she joined NYC Health + Hospitals and successfully transformed multiple post-acute facilities and programs into a cohesive team delivering high quality clinical care to patients. She was pivotal in large scale transformational work, and under her leadership, the service line’s clinical competencies and capabilities increased drastically, making the post-acute sites competitive in local markets and recognized nationally as top ranked medical facilities. With these huge responsibilities, Maureen had a natural ability to infuse levity with humor and always made us laugh. She loved her NYC Health + Hospitals family – all the staff on the front lines of our skilled nursing facilities, our residents and their families – and was so proud of all they had accomplished. We will soon plan an appropriate remembrance to recognize her contributions to NYC Health + Hospitals and show how much we loved her back. We will miss her immensely.


I have approved 2 contracts, given their time-sensitivity, that would otherwise have been brought to the Board, and I want to take this opportunity to summarize them.
One is for the rental of a hotel used to serve as part of the New York City COVID-19 Isolation program. The agreement terms are for December 13, 2020 through June 30, 2022 We have the right to terminate our use of the hotel on 10 days’ notice, now that the minimum use period of 45 days has been met. If we utilize all 195 rooms in the hotel for the entire period, the cost of the agreement will not exceed $5,557,324. Including food service. The full cost of the agreement will be covered by the City and OMB under our COVID MOU.

The second contract is with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai to perform health assessments of Department of Corrections (DOC) employees missing work due to claims of illness. Having a sufficient number of healthy correctional employees is critical to H+H carrying out its functions providing health care to incarcerated persons. Mt. Sinai is a leader in Occupational Health through its Mount Sinai Selikoff’s Centers for Occupational Health and has considerable expertise in assisting employers respond to the health needs of its employees. Mt. Sinai provides services to the Port Authority and the MTA Bridge and Tunnel operations, and charged the same amounts for these services, $175/exam for up to 9,000 exams per month and at $250/exam for monthly exams above that threshold. The authorized amount for this contract which was effective August 1, 2021, is $9M. The cost is fully funded by the Department of Corrections through its MOU with NYC Health + Hospitals.