As tax-paying New York City residents, Staten Islanders should be entitled to the same benefits that the millions of residents of the other boroughs receive. However, when it comes to health care and hospitals, this is clearly not the case. In total, there are eleven public hospitals in New York City operated by NYC Health + Hospitals:
Three in the Bronx (Jacobi Medical Center, Lincoln Medical Center, and North Central Bronx Hospital), three in Manhattan (Bellevue Hospital, Harlem Hospital Center, and Metropolitan Hospital Center), two in Queens (Elmhurst Hospital Center and Queens Hospital Center), and three in Brooklyn (Coney Island Hospital, Kings County Hospital Center, and Woodhull Medical & Mental Health Center).
Does it seem fair that we Staten Islanders pay our fair share of tax revenues to the city, yet have exactly zero city-administered public health and hospital facilities? Of course, over the years, many have put forth the argument that we’re fortunate enough to be blessed with private hospitals here on SI, however, the other boroughs also have their fair share of privately-operated hospitals as well.
Why Should It Matter If Our Island Lacks Even One Public Hospital?
NYC Health + Hospitals runs the largest public health care system in our country. Spread across over seventy locations throughout the five boroughs, Staten Island lacks the acute care hospitals that other NYC residents enjoy the privilege of having in each of their home boroughs. While some may argue that the level of care patients receive at city hospitals is mediocre, or sub-standard, this is just a well-worn untruth.
And, NYC Health + Hospitals specifically serves the under-priviledged of our city, from those with extremely limited income, to those who are living within our city’s boundaries without legal authorization to be in the United States. Whether you agree or disagree with the politics of such immigrants being here, they are people after all, and require health services. Without our NYC public health care system, such immigrants would be seeking medical help at our city’s various for-profit health center, as happens every day on Staten Island at RUMC and SIUH.
Accolades and Awards
In actuality, NYC Health + Hospitals rank well in U.S. News and World Report ratings. Our city’s hospital system has also received numerous accolades, including being honored with the LGBTQ Healthcare Equity Leader, as well as a Baby Friendly facility, awarded by the World Health Organization (WHO), and a designation as a Safe Sleep medical center. Additionally, other awards include Honors for Quality in Cardiac and Stroke Care, given by American Heart Association/American Stroke Association for Improving Quality of Care and Patient Outcomes.
Jacobi Medical Center was designated as a Level I Trauma Center Verification from American College of Surgeons, meaning that is is a premiere health center, capable of dealing even the most severe, and complicated, trauma cases. Additionally, Dr. Norma Keller of Bellevue, was recently named President of the New York Cardiological Society, quite an distinguished post, actually.
Dr. Emmanuel Nwokedi, MD, Chief of Radiology Oncology and Chairman of the Cancer Committee at Kings County Medical Center, was honored with the Leader in Cancer Care Award. Dr. Kathie-Ann Joseph, MD, MPH, FACS, Chief of Breast Surgery and Director of Breast Care Service at Bellevue Hospital was honored for her outstanding work in cancer care, garnering the American Cancer Society’s Leader in Cancer Care Award.
Recently, Elmhurst’s CEO, Israel Rocha, was named to City & State’s 2019 “Queens Power 100” list. Also, NYC Health + Hospitals, MetroPlus was cited in “Crain’s Notable Women in Health Care”. Clearly, this is not a third-rate medical care system. Even so, it’s not hard to find people who will only speak poorly of the NYC public hospital system.
Home Health Care For All. Except Staten Islanders.
NYC Health + Hospitals/At Home is another component of NYC’s public health care system, a home-health agency serving the residents of all the boroughs except – you guessed it -Staten Island. How is this a fair distribution of taxes? Why must our residents miss out on participation, as patients, in a system that best suits an island that is actually third-largest in land area, lacking adequate public transportation?
Of course, we do have the Gotham Health Vanderbilt facility here, located at 165 Vanderbilt Avenue. While not a hospital, NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health Vanderbilt does provide primary and preventative care to children and adults living on Staten Island via its state-of-the-art clinic. Additionally, a Women’s health unit provides a plethora o services to Staten Island women, including lactation counseling, cancer screening, family planning, gynecological care, HIV and STD testing, pregnancy testing, prenatal and postpartum care, as well as vaccinations. Vanderbilt is affiliated with Coney Island Hospital, meaning that if a patient is referred for specialty service,s they must travel to Brooklyn.
Staffers Overburdened and Frustrated, Our Three Hospitals Serving A Population Of 500,000
As many of the patients do not drive, and there is no direct rail or bus service to Coney Island, this is inconvenient, to say the least. In fact, this may actually thwart many from traveling to Brooklyn to receive the vital health services they require. This seems unfair, and is certainly not a good thing for our Island’s lower-income population. NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health, Mariners Harbor is another health clinic located on Staten Island. Like the Vanderbilt site, patients are referred to Coney Island Hospital if anything beyond preventative care, or primary care, is required.
Does any of this seem fair? Staten Island’s existing hospitals, Richmond University Medical Center, as well as Staten Island University Hospital (North and South), are overburdened. How can three hospitals serve a population of nearly 500,000? The Emergency Rooms of each of three three hospital sites are nearly always packed. As Staten Islanders, we deserve better. Serving the entire island strains the resources of both SIUH and RUMC. The physicians, nurses, and hospital staff must work extra hard to keep up with this artificially-induced pace of nonstop patients.
Of course, older Islanders may remember other hospitals that once were, and no longer are. Richmond memorial Hospital, on Seguine Avenue, became SIUH South. No great loss there. But what of Doctor’s Hospital, once located on Targee Street? PS 48 now sits where the for-profit hospital once stood. In fact, those among us who have been here the longest may remember it being dubbed Sunnyside Hospital, knocked down in the 60s to make way for the Clove Lakes Expressway, now called the Staten Island Expressway.
Bayley-Seton was another hospital of yore that many of us remember. Its incredible architecture could be seen by car or by rail, towering over Bay Street. This campus was operated by Richmond University Medical Center for some time in recent years, after being transferred to the former St. Vincent’s, but is presently closed. Yet another fixture in the hospital and healthcare landscape of Staten Island that is but a memory.
So where does that leave us, in the present day? Ask any person who works, in any capacity, at any of our three remaining private hospitals on Staten Island. You’ll find that it is no exaggeration that our population is under-served, and the need for additional hospitals is clearly in order. As the Island grew in recent decades, the number of hospitals shrank.
Does that make sense? And while additional privately operated hospitals would be a positive development for Our Island, we residents of Staten Island are entitled to have at least one public hospital of our own. After all, we pay taxes and so it only makes sense. Staten Island is not somehow different than the rest of the city; our people could sure use the help of having our own city-operated hospital center.