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Queens Chronicle

Healthcare town halls coming to Qns.

Upcoming events are scheduled for Jackson Heights, Jamaica and Flushing

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Posted: Thursday, April 6, 2017 10:30 am

Healthcare-focused town halls are coming to Jackson Heights, Jamaica and Flushing, the Queens Solidarity Coalition announced on Monday at NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens.

The events will feature “a panel of health care experts to answer questions from concerned residents,” according to coalition co-founder Ethan Felder, a labor attorney who lives in Forest Hills. Those in attendance, he added, will “not be questioned by anyone regarding their immigration status.”

Make the Road New York’s office at 92-10 Roosevelt Ave. in Jackson Heights will host a town hall on April 8 at 3 p.m., the Harvest Room in Jamaica at 90-40 160 St. will have one on April 19 at 7 p.m. and the last will be at Townsend Harris High School at 149-11 Melbourne Ave. in Flushing on April 30 at 1 p.m.

“Despite the substantial gains made under the Affordable Care Act, for far too many in this borough, access to quality healthcare is a privilege rather than a right,” Felder, who is a member of Community Board 6, said. “Hospital closures and a shortage of primary care providers have exacerbated already highly unequal health outcomes for underserved patients and populations and communities.”

The activist, who was joined by coalition co-founder Mazeda Uddin, added that the New York State Department of Health has found that Queens’ southeast section has the lowest doctor-to-population ratio in the borough.

“The child born to an African-American mother is more than twice as likely to die in the first year of life than the children born to a white mother,” he said. “Almost 2.5 million New Yorkers are medically underserved, lacking sufficient primary and preventative care services.”

National controversy surrounding the failed repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act precedes the town halls. While Washington Republican infighting killed the GOP’s recent healthcare plan, the continued existence of Obamacare is far from guaranteed.

“The folks that are in Congress want to do worse,” activist Anthony Feliciano said. “They thought that this repeal was not good enough; they want to do more damage to communities of color, to immigrant communities, communities that this hospital services.”

The GOP idea of shifting to block grants for Medicaid, he added, are also a concern.

Ken Shelton, Queens director of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York, spoke about a need for a change in discourse.

“We need to shift the conversation of healthcare to those who are at the bottom of the political, social and economic ladder,” said Shelton, who is a student at St. John’s University. “But why do we need to do that? Because when you lift those people who have been at the bottom for so long, when you give them all-access healthcare and you give them different means of living their life, you are able to lift all of us up.”

Since 1970, the year that his mother was born at the hospital, Shelton said, not much has changed in terms of progress for black and brown communities in terms of healthcare access.

The Queens Solidarity Coalition was formed after the election of President Trump. The activist group help a massive rally at MacDonald Park in Forest Hills on Feb. 26.

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