St. John’s Episcopal Hospital will undergo renovations to its emergency room as the result of a state grant. Photos courtesy of St. John’s Episcopal Hospital
BY TRONE DOWD
A burgeoning need for medical facilities in Queens has left many wondering about the future of healthcare in the borough. But on Friday, one of the borough’s remaining hospitals announced that it was expanding its facilities.
St. John’s Episcopal Hospital received a grant last week for more than $10 million from the state Department of Health for capital improvements towards its emergency facilities.
The new emergency facility will aim to modernize the hospital that serves both Southeast Queens and parts of Nassau County. Queens elected officials—including Assemblywomen Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Far Rockaway) and Michele Titus (D-South Ozone Park), State Sens. Joe Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) and James Sanders Jr. (D-South Ozone Park) and Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton)—who advocated for the grant celebrated the news on Friday at a press conference, where they were joined by St. John’s Hospital executives.
According to St. John’s CEO Gerard Walsh, the project will take approximately no more than two years to complete.
When construction is concluded, the building will have a 22,000-square-foot expansion, which is aimed to improve its ability to serve the public and add more space to provide care for patients. It will also feature 19 private treatment rooms, 21 results waiting positions, 14 private areas and six rapid evaluation beds in a separate psychiatric emergency department. Walsh said that the hospital has been working with the Department of Health for more than a year to acquire the necessary funds for the project.
“We are excited about this milestone and look forward to its completion,” Walsh said. “Thank you to our friends in government for creating a resource for safety net hospitals, thank you Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the State Department of Health and former Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder for your support.”
Goldfeder, who stepped down from the state Assembly last year, helped push for funding for the facility during his time in office. His successor, Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Rockaway Beach) also emphasized the importance of improving the Rockaway facility. She said that this is far from the last investment in the hospital.
“We, all of us elected officials, work together as a team—and this was definitely a team effort,” Pheffer Amato said.
“And it’s not done yet—this is the first of many improvements. Our one and only full-service hospital is finally getting a modern, high-end ER facility. The stakes can’t be higher here. Our area has worse health outcomes than almost anywhere else in the city, with very high rates of heart disease and stroke and some of the worst access to healthcare. With national uncertainty at an all-time high, the need for this expanded facility is hit-you-in-the-face obvious.”
Pheffer Amato said that she was born in St. John’s Hospital, so it holds a special place in her heart.
“We hear them, out in the community, being not only proactive, but actually humble, acknowledging what needs work and being proud of what’s improving,” she said. “This is the one and only way to move from what we had—a dysfunctional health system—to what we need—adequate, high-quality care for all. I’m impressed, you’ve made a really fantastic case for the resources you need, and you’ve inspired us in Albany and at the Federal level to keep fighting hard for you.”
Addabbo said that he also believed the healthcare center would need further investment in the future.
“While I was pleased that the collective efforts of the Rockaway elected officials, the administration of the St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, the 1199 Coalition and others resulted in state funding for an improved and expanded Emergency Department and Room, our work is far from being over,” Addabbo said. “We need to witness a day when a Rockaway resident has access to full hospital health care and does not have to leave the peninsula for a medical procedure or emergency. I look forward to working towards that day and continuing to improve health services for Rockaway.”
Southeast Queens officials said that the development would bring services to residents in a section of the borough where resources are scarcer than for their inland counterparts.
“This is a great day, an important day for the hospital, and a really important day for all of the residents of the Rockaway Peninsula,” U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) said. “When we’re all on the same page to make something happen, it happens.”
Sanders said that he personally knew the importance of St. John’s Hospital.
“As a resident of the Rockaways who has used the emergency room, I know that we have to do better,” Sanders said.
“And now, by the grace of God and through hard work, we have done better.”
Titus stressed the benefits that the investment would have for families in Southeast Queens.
“Finally seeing this vision come through and seeing that emergency room improvement that we need is so important for our loved ones, friends, and neighbors,” she said. “This is life or death. And making sure they have access to quality care right here on the peninsula is so important.”
Richards, who has been a long time advocate for change in the Rockaways, was glad to see that trend continue.
“A change is coming to the Rockaways,” Richards said. “But without improved healthcare access, the peninsula will still struggle. This grant is a tremendous victory that will ensure that residents can finally receive more equitable emergency health care without the hassle of having to cross any bridges.”
St. John’s Hospital is the only hospital that provides medical emergency services to the densely populated areas of Southeast Queens and southwest Nassau. These areas, which are primarily made up of people of color, have been long deemed to be underserved when it comes to medical services. Last year, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city’s Health + Hospitals program held outreach sessions throughout the city, including Jamaica, to get a better idea of how health services could be improved in areas such as Southeast Queens.