With Pedro Espada Jr.’s clinic gone, two new clinics open in Soundview

Attending the ribbon cutting ceremony for Urban Health Plan at Bruckner Plaza (from left to right) : Angel Laporte, Nelson Peralta, site administrator, Urban Health Plan; Paloma Hernandez, President and CEO, Urban Health Plan; New York State Assemblyman Marcos Crespo; Community Board 9 District Manager Francisco Gonzalez; Anna Vincenty, representing Congressman Jose Serrano; Thomas Messina, representing Congressman Joseph Crowley.
Photo courtesy of Urban Health Plan, Inc.

While one health care provider takes over disgraced former Senator Pedro Espada’s now defunct Soundview Health Center, another clinic has set up shop just blocks away.

Urban Health Plan, a staple in the south Bronx for 40 years, opened its doors July 12 at the Bruckner Plaza strip mall, a four-minute walk from the old clinic, now dubbed the Stevenson Health Center and run by The Institute for Family Health.

But both sides agree there’s “plenty of work to go around.”

“The Institute is welcomed to practice here,” said Paloma Izquierdo Hernandez, president and CEO of Urban Health Plan. “The community will luck out in having two providers.”

Dr. Neil Calman, head of the Institute, said having two clinics to service an area of 60,000 people makes sense.

“The current recommended number of primary care providers to population is 1 doctor per 1200 patients,” said Calman. “That means there’s a need for 50 primary care providers to serve the population.”

Lawmakers joined Urban Health Plan in cutting the ribbon for its sixth clinic in the borough.

Noticeably small, the new clinic has four exam rooms that offer primary care services.

All of the rooms are “interim” for now, said Hernandez, saying that her group is now scouting for a bigger local facility.

“When we expand we’ll be able to bring in mental health and dental services” she said.

Picking Soundview as the next new clinic was a “no-brainer”, she said.

Soundview residents were already visiting the group’s flagship clinic in Hunts Point, founded by Hernandez’s father, Dr. Richard Izquierdo, nearly 40 years ago.

Hernandez said she felt compelled to open a community-based clinic after Soundview’s troubles.

Federal and state authorities discovered clinic founder and CEO Pedro Espada Jr. milked the clinic out of $500,000. The former state senator was found guilty of embezzling the funds. He is now awaiting a separate federal trial on tax evasion. Citing poverty, Espada recently asked a federal judge for a public defender.

Urban Health applied last September for the same sought-after federal health grant Soundview was denied after receiving a low application score.

Claiming it had been unfairly treated, Soundview attorneys filed a lawsuit against the federal Health and Human Services Department and Urban Health.

Urban Health ultimately won the grant, moving quickly in February to build the second floor clinic to meet the requirements set by the federal health grant.

Dr. Calman said his group did not apply for the grant since it was busy finding an alternative way to keep the Espada clinic from closing.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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