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Queens Chronicle

Immunization clinic slated for closure

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Posted: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:23 am, Thu Aug 22, 2013.

Barring mayoral intervention, the only Department of Health and Mental Hygiene immunization clinic in the borough, located in Corona, will be shut down as of Aug. 21.

Many elected officials and community leaders protested the closure on Wednesday outside the fated clinic — the Corona Health Center at 34-33 Junction Blvd.

The clinic provides vaccinations recommended for those older than 4 years old from Hepatitis B to pertussis, also known as whooping cough.

The Tremont Clinic in the Bronx is on this month’s chopping block, leaving Ft. Greene Health Center in Brooklyn as the only DOHMH clinic to remain.

No staff would be laid off as a result of the closures, the agency said.

Critics say the DOHMH is abandoning their core mission.

Evelyn Martinez, exiting the clinic with her three children, one of whom came for a checkup, said she has been using the clinic for six years.

“It’s a good clinic,” she said. “It helps a lot.” She said that closing it would mean she would have to travel elsewhere and lose a full day of work. “I’m a single mother. Here it’s one hour or two.”

Corona resident Nelsi Mena, speaking in Spanish, indicated that closing the center would “not be prudent. It benefits the whole community. We’d have to go somewhere else.”

DOHMH responded: “This is not a decision that the department takes lightly,” but it is doing so to preserve essential function and reduce costs.

According to DOHMH, 1 percent of all vaccinations in the city are done at the department’s clinics and there are 22 primary providers in the borough that provide free or low-cost immunizations.

But state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Corona) questioned if the other clinics could absorb the more-than 30,000 individuals who were seen at the two clinics. He wrote a letter to Mayor Bloomberg with these concerns.

He also asked if the remaining organizations could provide language services for the new clientele, which include large numbers of Spanish- and Korean-speaking individuals.

According to DC 37, the city’s largest public employee union, the Corona clinic alone in 2012 served 4,286 children and administered nearly 8,000 MMR vaccines, 6,600 hepatitis B vaccines and 3,100 influenza vaccines.

Without proper vaccines, children are not allowed to attend New York’s public schools.

“It is ironic” said Judith Arroyo, president of the United Federation of Nurses and Epidemiologists Local 436, that the closure could come during August, which is National Immunization Awareness Month.

She added, “The largest expense doesn’t cost the city anything,” indicating that the federal government buys the vaccines for the children and distributes them for free.

“The mayor and his administration did not inform anyone,” said Fitz Reid, president of Health Services Employees Local 768, “No information was given. Sound the alarm. Spread the word.”

Additionally Peralta said the Corona and Tremont Health Centers “may not be closed unless the city gives the DOH notice of the planned closure, submits an acceptable closure plan, and receives written permission to close the clinic ... I ... ask that you provide me with a copy of the closure plan and a written explanation as to why it was apparently deemed acceptable.”

He urged the mayor “to do what is necessary to keep these clinics open.”

Co-sponsoring the press conference protesting the closure of the clinics were community groups Make the Road-NY, the Commission on the Public’s Health System and the People’s Budget Coalition.

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