It’s time for a public hospital on Staten Island

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Posted Mar 09, 2021
By: Folashade Fakoya

At the very start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Spring of 2020 New York City became the epicenter of the nation. Approximately a year later, and New York City continues to have some of the highest rates in the country.

The biggest hotspots for COVID19 in New York City include communities in the South Bronx, north and southeast Queens, and an especially large portion of Staten Island.

With nearly 10,000 positive COVID cases per 100,000 people, Staten Island currently has the highest infection rate per capita out of the five boroughs. While Staten Island is the least populated borough, making up only 5% of the city’s population, in December of 2020, Staten Island managed to make up 25% of COVID deaths. Many attribute these alarmingly high rates to the prevalence of anti-mask groups in Staten Island­, with the spike in November and December rates largely due to the election rallies for the former administration. However, the poor trends for Staten Island are only continuing two months into the new year leaving many wondering what could also be contributing to the way Staten Island is being ravaged by COVID19, specifically the predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods located on the north shore.

While the political culture is certainly a driving factor of these rates, there may also be other factors to consider. Staten Island is the only borough in New York City without a Public hospital. There are only two hospitals in Staten Island, both of which are private. This leaves many residents at a disadvantage because public hospitals provide more financially equitable options for those with limited income and those who are undocumented. Staten Island residents are also geographically disadvantaged due to longer average commute times to get to the hospitals.

The lack of public hospitals also prevents Staten Island from being included in many of the COVID19 plans to increase hospital capacities as well, putting residents at an even greater disadvantage. In early April, when the city first announced its decision to increase medical staff, as well as intensive care unit beds, Staten Island was not included because the plan only applied to public hospitals. Staten Island was left out once again when the city first sent military medical personnel to city hospitals. Staten Island hospitals’ health care workers were also excluded from a $8.2 million fundraising effort by city hospitals because only public hospitals were included.

Some believe that the city is finally beginning to recognize the needs of neighborhoods most impacted by COVID19 when it announced that two new mass vaccinations sites would be opened on Staten Island, especially since the first mass vaccination site will open on the north shore where predominantly Black and Latino communities are located. However, many residents are concerned about why it took a global pandemic for New York City to realize how insufficient our health care system really is, especially in certain boroughs. Even though it is due to such unfortunate circumstances, perhaps this pandemic is the wake-up call that New York City needs in order to increase its efforts to create a more equitable public infrastructure that will better serve its most neglected communities, and in turn, all of the city’s residents.

Folashade Fakoya, a test and trace coordinator for the National Black Leadership Commission on Health, lives in Eltingville.

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