Column: Pandemic revealed scarcity of hospital resources in the Bronx

Courtesy of Montefiore

Happy Veterans Day to all veterans of all branches of our military: Thank you for serving our country. Your sacrifices and bravery enable us to relish and cherish the protections and freedoms of our great nation. May God bless you all.

Do not let the heartbreaking damage and destruction that Ida brought to our community, our city, fall by the wayside. The August 2020 fury of Tropical Storm Isaias inspired statewide public hearings. The aftermath of Ida certainly warrants citywide, multiple agency investigations and examination of NYC’s inadequate infrastructure and plans to offset future anticipated inland flooding.

HOSPITAL RESOURCES

The health concerns of many Bronx County residents have elevated during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, data indicates Bronx County was in the midst of a pre-pandemic health crisis.

The young and elderly are among the most vulnerable members of society. Approximately 1.5 million people reside in Bronx County. A recent age breakdown showed 13% of our residents are over age 65, 24% are under age 18, with 8% of those being under age 5. It is plausible to suggest 25% of our population could be labeled vulnerable. A 2021 report by The County Healthy Rankings and Roadmaps, a program of the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, mirrored a March 2020 report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In 2020, The RWJ Foundation, for the ninth consecutive year, rated our Bronx the unhealthiest county in New York State. According to 2018 data released by “Pro Publica,” Bronx County has approximately 4,000 hospital beds and an 80% average daily capacity. In the event of an unforeseen crisis, the “pre-pandemic” Bronx had an estimated 800 available hospital beds. The poor health rating of our borough with potentially 375,000 people in the risk category and a shortage of hospital bed space are cause for concern. These factors warrant studies to determine the accessibility, efficiency and efficacy of hospital resources in Bronx County.

DETOX CLOSURES

Pre-pandemic reports by “The City” and local News12 indicated lack of use and high costs forced the closures of inpatient detox units in all 11 NYC-run hospitals. Although none of the Bronx facilities had dedicated detox units, these facilities treated patients in traditional hospital settings. Opponents to these closures believe losses of hospital-based inpatient detox services will eventually place additional stress on overburdened emergency rooms. In addition, their discontinuations will likely increase the number of ineffective outpatient substance abuse treatment facilities in or near residential communities. Statistics from the World Health Organization and National Institute of Health indicates the current outpatient model has an insufficient 25%-30% success rate. Outpatient substance abuse treatment facilities are businesses; many operate under the non-profit umbrella. These businesses are part of a lucrative multi-billion dollar industry and often face community resistance. Past community battles against Miracle City and Carnegie Hill bear witness to this confrontational dynamic. This begs the question: Would an interim plan to consolidate, not eliminate, inpatient substance abuse treatment services in city-run hospitals been a practical option?

Next meeting of the Spencer Estate Association is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus. Elected officials and agency heads gauge community resolve by attendances at civic meetings. Tell a friend, a packed house sends a message. If we want to keep and reap the blessings of our fine quality of life, we must endure the fatigue of supporting it. Our community has traditionally exhibited a “We are Family attitude.” Now is the time to let it shine. Communicate; make that phone call, text message or email. Please check on family, friends and neighbors, especially the elderly and vulnerable. Any area homeowner or renter interested in the Spencer Estate Civic Association attend the Nov. 17 meeting or send an email to spencerestatecivic@gmail.com

Remember: Community=Common-Unity and Inclusion brings Solutions.

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