Administrator: NCB on the Mend Cites Improvements at Community Meeting
By JORDAN MOSS
Officials at North Central Bronx Hospital (NCB) are considering restoring the facility's asthma unit, according to on-site administrator Barbara Rosado, who also announced at a community meeting last week that beds intended for the homeless have been removed from the facility. Improvements in the emergency room and housekeeping department were also announced, but residents still have concerns about the rehabilitation and pediatric units and staff shortages.
Rosado made her comments at a meeting organized by the Mosholu Woodlawn South Community Coalition and the Coalition to Save North Central Bronx Hospital, heartening an audience of about 80 local residents and hospital employees who have rallied regularly since the early summer to reverse the transfer of some units and staff to Jacobi Hospital, another public hospital in the east Bronx. Jacobi and NCB make up what the city's Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) refer to as the North Bronx Healthcare Network.
HHC chief Luis Marcos made comments to The New York Times last spring indicating that the facility would eventually close. But Marcos and the network's executive director have repeatedly said since then that there are no plans to close the facility. Employees, worried the hospital was suffering a slow but sure demise, continued with a series of rallies in front of the building.
The meeting, held in the cafeteria at St. Brendan's School on East 207th Street in Norwood, began with a presentation by two local members of the clergy. Monsignor Robert Trainor of St. Ann's Church, who has been involved in this issue for several months, said that when he was hit by a car early this year, he asked his doctors at Jacobi Hospital to be sent to NCB where he had successfully undergone rehabilitation after a previous accident. "No, you can't go to NCB," Trainor said he was told, "because those services are not available there anymore." Trainor said he worried that if steps are not taken to restore services, NCB would be a hospital in name only. "Can it still be called a hospital if parents can't bring their youngsters there who are suffering from asthma?"
Linking the hospital issue to the fight against the filtration plant, Monsignor Patrick Boyle of St. Brendan's Church told those assembled that the Norwood area was being unfairly targeted.
"The powers that be don't have a high regard for our community," Boyle said, adding that the neighborhood seemed to be tops on the list when the city is "handing out a punishment," but nowhere on the radar screen when goodies are distributed. "If the golden slipper was given out, we would not get that," Boyle said.
Later in the meeting, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz echoed that sentiment. "It feels as if the City of New York is waging war against this community," he said.
Dinowitz agreed to a request that he set up a meeting for community residents with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to discuss the filtration issue. If two pending lawsuits are successful in convincing a federal judge that state legislation is necessary before the city begins digging at Mosholu Golf Course in Van Cortlandt Park, Silver will be key to blocking the city's plans.
"I will speak to him and ask that he sit down as soon as possible to meet with people in the community," Dinowitz said.
Organizers insisted that hospital officials should have a plan for dealing with possible increased health problems stemming from the construction and operation of the filtration site about two blocks from the hospital, but Rosado said she was "new to the issue" and would have to report back when she was up to speed.
In addition to the possibility of bringing back the asthma clinic and removing the beds slated for the homeless, Rosado said 10 to 20 new workers and three supervisors were in the process of being hired for the housekeeping department, three operating rooms for labor and delivery were being renovated, and $2 million in state funding is being provided to NCB for out-patient treatment for the mentally ill. Dr. Kevin Brown, head of the hospital's Emergency unit, also emphasized that his department was fully staffed and just received a $500,000 renovation. He urged people to continue using the Emergency Room -- where, he said, there is less than an hour wait, and a month's supply of medicine typically costs only $5 to $10 -- if they needed it; a robust patient census, which administrators scrutinize to determine what level of services to provide, would bolster the case to restore and augment services, Brown said.
Though the crowd was vocal, and people frequently rose to make strong statements or ask questions, Rosado was listened to carefully and greeted with applause when she announced improvements at the hospital like the increase in the housekeeping staff and the removal of the beds for the homeless.
Employees have repeatedly charged that there is a lack of leadership at NCB, since the network's executive director, Joseph Orlando, spends most of his time -- 70 to 75 percent, Rosado said -- at Jacobi. Rosado said she spent at least 80 percent of her time at NCB, but employees at the meeting said Rosado was not responsible for important decisions. Rosado, a 13-year veteran of HHC who arrived at NCB in July, said she was wary of taking the job because of rumors the facility would close, but decided to accept when her supervisors assured her it would stay open. Organizers asked that Rosado convey their interest in meeting with Dr. Rosa Gil, chair of the HHC's board, who was at a town hall meeting with Mayor Giuliani and could not attend the St. Brendan's meeting. Rosado said she would have more information in January about the asthma unit and discussions regarding the pediatric and rehabilitation departments.
Many of the residents and employees at the meeting said they were confident their activism was responsible for the new developments at NCB, as did Dinowitz.
"Whatever victories we have achieved so far is a result solely of [community protest]," Dinowitz said.
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