Queens pols fight for maternity ward funds 1

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, left, Rep. Grace Meng, NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst CEO Helen Arteaga Landaverde, Health + Hospitals CEO Mitchell Katz, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz and other supporters back an upgrade to the hospital’s maternity unit.

Elected officials throughout Queens were championing a $3 million maternity unit upgrade at NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst last week at a press conference to combat maternal mortality, especially among women of color.

Representatives U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Queens, Bronx) and Grace Meng (D-Flushing) submitted a joint community funding request for the ward for fiscal year 2022 to the House appropriators.

If the request is fulfilled, Elmhurst Hospital would be able to provide a more modern, safe and comfortable family-centered environment that meets current privacy standards with single rooms, according to U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who also supports the measure.

“When giving birth, privacy leads to a quieter environment, which promotes recovery, provides better infection control and is better for bonding parents and their babies,” said Gillibrand in a statement. “Healthy breastfeeding is also fostered in single rooms.”

The first few hours after giving birth are the moments you never forget, according to Meng.

“Every single mom, regardless of your ZIP code, or your economic background, or your ethnic background, deserves to have that experience bonding with their baby,” said Meng.

Elmhurst Hospital was a great example in handling the coronavirus pandemic and it will also be an example when it comes to maternity healthcare, according to Ocasio-Cortez.

“There is still scuff marks on the floor from people being rushed around corners” due to the pandemic, noticed Ocasio-Cortez, who did a walking tour of the hospital earlier. “Over a decade, for the first time, the House is offering funding for community projects, so we are going back to Washington and we are going to ask for $3 million for the OB/GYN unit, because Elmhurst is a place of strong women.”

The other women elected officials at the event included state Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-Jackson Heights) and Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz (D-Corona).

“We don’t often get to choose our birthplace, it often happens out of sheer luck,” said Ramos, who was born at Elmhurst Hospital. “I possibly could not have made it.”

Ramos’ sister was also born at the hospital, when their mother went into cardiac arrest while giving birth.

“She was clinically dead,” said Ramos. “The people at Elmhurst knew exactly what to do and saved my sister and my mother. For that I’m forever indebted to all of you.”

Elmhurst Hospital is the institution that best reflects the diversity of the community, according to Ramos.

“Elmhurst Hospital is a true community center here in so many ways,” said Ramos. “We want every mother to enjoy as much of their child as possible.”

The lone male official at the event was Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.

Richards believes “there is not enough investment going into our public institutions like Elmhurst Hospital ... it deserves a first rate-facility.”

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