This week, Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) wrote Mayor Bloomberg about the potential closure of the Corona Health Center.
“I am deeply distressed to hear that you are again trying to close the Corona Health Center,” the letter reads. “Your administration has been marked by bold public health measures, so it is perplexing why you would weaken our city’s immunization program during your last days in office. Effective immunization requires total coverage of all of our communities. Considering the nature of communicable diseases, gaps endanger all of us, here in New York and, considering the nature of global travel, everywhere else.”
At the time the letter was sent, on Dec. 9, many were not aware that there was a date set for closure, only that it had been considered in the past.
But it has been confirmed by a source close to the matter that the city will be closing the Corona Health Center on Dec. 31, the last day Bloomberg will be in office.
It appears employees of the health center were unaware that the facility will be closing as one woman who answered the phone seemed shocked and confused that such an idea was being considered.
“We are not closing,” she said. “We are open now and will stay open. These are just false rumors.”
According to sources, the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and other parties involved have been vague about the plan.
“Less than 1 percent of all adult vaccinations in New York City occur at our clinics, more than 40 percent of our clinic patients are insured, and free or low-cost vaccinations are available at other locations near Corona,” the DOH said in a written statement. “After absorbing more than $100 million in budget cuts over the last few years, the Health Department has had to scale back services like these where other providers are available.”
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), who has actively fought for keeping healthcare facilities like the Corona Health Center available for his constituents, recalled Bloomberg holding a press conference at 83rd Street and Roosevelt Avenue in Corona to challenge the Census Bureau’s count of New York City’s population.
“He said that vibrant, growing communities like these had been undercounted by the Census Bureau,” Peralta said.
The senator said the conference wasn’t for show as there was a lot at stake for the city’s future. A higher population count would mean more federal aid.
“And that’s the painful irony here: The mayor comes to this community to argue for more resources for a growing population, then turns around and cuts a vital health service provider,” Peralta said. “This is a rapidly growing community where public services, from healthcare to school seats, are already stretched thin. The city should be expanding services here, not cutting them.”
What’s more, the city is looking to enforce a new bill that would require schoolchildren to receive the flu vaccination.
“While in the process of closing its last remaining provider of free and low-cost vaccinations in Queens, the City moves to require annual flu shots for children,” Peralta said. “The irony is as painful as it is absurd. Parents in this community already have a hard time finding a seat for their children in a real classroom, now the city wants to make it harder for them to get their kids immunized for school.
“The Corona Health Clinic administered nearly 33,000 vaccines last year to close to 16,000 clients, though it was open only twice a week. The center not only serves many Spanish-speaking families, it also provides services to a large number of Korean-speaking clients.”