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The Coronavirus Pandemic Further Proves Need To Save And Transform Mount Vernon Hospital

An Open Letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday, March 17th, that the number of potential coronavirus cases in the state is too great for the capacity of its hospitals.

Speaking at a news conference in Albany, Gov. Cuomo said the “wave [of cases] is going to crash the hospital system” and the state is working to increase the number of health care workers and health care facilities.

This comes at a time when Montefiore wants to close Mount Vernon Hospital. The only person who can prevent this from happening is Gov. Cuomo, so one has to ask why hasn’t he put a halt on Montefiore’s profits or people plans and give the hospital the much-needed resources especially since he alerts the public that the state is working to increase the number of health care workers and health care facilities. Why not start with giving the order to keep Mount Vernon Hospital open and giving the hospital the much-needed resources it needs.

“This Coronavirus pandemic is the realization of our community’s worst fears,” Councilwoman Delia Farquharson shares with Black Westchester. “As the 8th most dense city in the country, we absolutely need a hospital to effectively respond to incidents like this. Montefiore has failed to respond to the needs of this community. They must be held accountable. We already have 25 positive cases in the city, and as the evidence suggests, this number will grow exponentially. The neighboring hospitals are already full to overflowing, while Montefiore twiddles its thumbs. My hope is that this experience will reinforce why Mount Vernon needs and deserves a hospital to ensure equity and access to proper health care.”

On March 4th Mount Vernon City School District Superintendent Kenneth Hamilton announced one family was quarantined when two students in the same family were possibly exposed. Now the announcement that there are 25 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Mount Vernon. We believe this is not accurate and could be much higher since tests have been scarce. And if we learned anything from the announcement of NBA Superstar Kevin Durant testing positive he shows no signs and feels completely healthy. This means that number can be ten times what’s being reported with many Mount Vernonites walking around spreading the virus because they do not know they have it.

Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard confirmed Saturday, March 21st that the city’s first COVID-19 death was a 70-year-old man. A fire official also confirmed that there are two confirmed cases of the virus within the city’s fire department.

In addition to this current pandemic we were not prepared for, Mount Vernon leads the state in heart and cardiac issues, which Montefiore never equipped the hospital to deal with. No cardiac unit, no maturity ward, no trauma unit, etc. This pandemic is further proof of the need to save and transform Mount Vernon Hospital not close it.

In New York, where there are more confirmed cases of coronavirus than any other state in the U.S., Cuomo is also sounding an alarm about a shortage of hospital beds, especially in intensive care units. Equipping MVH won’t solve the problem entirely but would go along way in the local area.

Congressman Eliot Engel agrees;

“Important during the coronavirus outbreak for the Mount Vernon Hospital to remain fully staffed and operational,” Congressman Engel shared with Black Westchester.

With talks of floating hospitals on cruise ships and turning hotels into hospitals, the Westchester County Center has even been recommended as one of four sites in NY to be transformed into a temporary hospital. Why not use some of that money to transform Mount Vernon Hospital as well as other area hospitals first. Montefiore New Rochelle and The Bronx, as well as Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville and the hospitals in Yonkers, are already overburdened. Saving and transforming MVH is just one of the many decisions that need to be made to deal with this pandemic.

Let us not forget the overburdened healthcare workers who put their lives on the line every day. Several employees who work at the neighboring Elizabeth Seton Children’s Center in Yonkers have tested positive for coronavirus, the center says.

As we continue work to combat the Coronavirus pandemic, Westchester County Executive George Latimer is extending his call for all available New York State Licensed nurses to step forward to certified physician assistants (PAs).

“We’re going to have a whole dialog about what’s happened to the economic structure, businesses that are closing down will they be able to reopen, the county’s finances, the state’s finances,” Latimer said. “All of those things are pushed off until we get through the contagion.”

Further evidence of a need not to close any hospitals. We need more resources not less, so saving and transforming MVH is more important than ever.

“The need to save and transform Mt. Vernon hospital is more important now than ever,” Rev. Stephen Pogue, Pastor of Greater Centennial AME Zion Church shares with Black Westchester. “Covid-19 has reminded us why we need a fully functional stand-alone hospital in the city of Mt. Vernon. Now is the time In the midst of this global crisis to bring the hospital fully back online and allow it to save lives.”

Gov. Cuomo, only you can oppose Montefiore Health System’s decision to close Mount Vernon Hospital- the only full-service hospital in the city of Mount Vernon.

Montefiore has applied for a Certificate of Need (CON) with the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) seeking approval to close the hospital.

The residents of Mount Vernon are seeking your intervention, as their Governor to save this hospital which was critical to the health and safety of the Mount Vernon community before this pandemic.

The health disparities in Mount Vernon are extremely high across overall indicators of health status when compared to the rest of Westchester County. Mount Vernon residents have significantly high mortality rates from heart disease, cancer, stroke and chronic lower respiratory diseases (CLRD) which makes them endangered by plans to shut down MVH.

Montefiore designated Mount Vernon as a “MEDICALLY UNDERSERVED COMMUNITY” with a lack of access to primary care services. Gov. Cuomo on October 19, 2019, Montefiore announced the NYSDOH will award a $41 million grant to enable Montefiore to close the only full-service hospital in Mount Vernon and open an Off-Campus Emergency Department (OCED) on Sandford Boulevard. One without hospital beds available for inpatient hospitalization. A decision made without any input from Mount Vernon elected officials or the public.

Mount Vernon also announcing its only hospital will operate as usual, caring for patients, at least for now. A triage tent has also been set up outside while the city waits for approval to become a possible testing site. Last year, Montefiore Health System said it would close the hospital by the end of 2020 and replace it with an outpatient health center.

Gov. Cuomo, only you can direct the NYSDOH to reject Montefiore’s application for CON and direct Montefiore to implement a plan to use the $41 million to deliver health services to transform Montefiore Mount Vernon Hospital.

In a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Department of Health officials dated March 18, local lawmakers and labor leaders called for a stay or overall rethinking of the closure, saying Montefiore “virtually abandoned the community” with “the most vulnerable population” in Westchester.

“Montefiore systematically removed medical services and resources from Mount Vernon Hospital, leaving residents without a functional hospital in the midst of a global pandemic,” read the letter, signed by state Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, state Sen. Jamaal Bailey, state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, County Legislator Lyndon Williams and labor unions the New York State Nursing Association and 1199 SEIU.

It went on, “Montefiore’s conduct placed the city and the entire Westchester region at greater risk of the spread of novel Coronavirus.”

“The regulatory process to close the hospital and build this new replacement facility is not complete,” New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) Director of Strategic Research Edward Yoo informed the 100 plus residents who gathered, Monday, January 6th at the town hall meeting at Graham Elementary School. “There are ways we can still engage with DOH (the Department of Health), with elected officials and the state government in order to keep the hospital open.”

This open letter to you Governor Cuomo is because this coronavirus pandemic is evidence we need you to act, and we need you to act now. You yourself told New Yorkers, the “wave [of cases] is going to crash the hospital system,” so why not save and transform Mount Vernon Hospital. It’s time to put people over politics and over profits and do right by the city of Mount Vernon, a heavy democratic block I might add. The residents of Mount Vernon are calling you to step in. Medical professionals at the area hospitals informed Black Westchester the added burden it would be if MVH was to close.

In your effort to find more beds and create temporary makeshift and floating hospitals why not add saving and transforming Mount Vernon Hospital to that list. Gov. Cuomo the residents and registered voters of Mount Vernon are calling for you to act, to step in, save and transform Mount Vernon Hospital. What are you going to do?

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About AJ Woodson (2279 Articles)
AJ Woodson is the Editor-In-Chief of Black Westchester and Co-Owner of Urban Soul Media Group, the parent company. AJ is a Father, Brother, Author, Writer, Journalism Fellow, Rapper, Radio Personality, Hip-Hop Historian and A Freelance Journalist whose byline has appeared in several print publications and online sites including The Source, Vibe, the Village Voice, Upscale, Sonicnet.com, Launch.com, Rolling Out Newspaper, Spiritual Minded Magazine and several others.
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