On October 16, Woodhull Medical Center will host a Community Health Forum open to call city residents, presented by the City Council and the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC).
The forum – one of five in the city – comes on the heels of a recent health report that surveyed 11 neighborhoods in the city facing the most acute shortage of primary care access. In Brooklyn, the survey looked at three neighborhoods: an area straddling East Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Bedford Stuyvesant; an area encompassing parts of Brownsville, Crown Heights, East New York, and New Lots; and a portion of Flatbush.
To help redress this shortage of primary care facing these Brooklyn neighborhoods and the eight other city neighborhoods included in the survey, the City Council has allocated $7.2 million for the current fiscal year. The upcoming forums, therefore, are a way for the city and the HHC – which will get $2 million of these funds – to further assess the needs of these underserved communities before they spend the allocated money.
Of the $7.2 million in funding, $6.4 million will go towards capital projects like facility upgrades and new facilities. $2 million of this $6.4 million will go to the HHC, the city’s municipal heath care system, which runs hospitals like Woodhull. The approximately $4 million balance of the capital funds will be put up for a Request for Proposal.
The remainder of the funds – around $800,000 – will go toward expense funds, which includes staffing costs.
Sarah Brannen, a Policy Analyst at the City Council, said the reason the bulk of the funds are going toward capital projects is because of a council spending rule mandating expense funds to be spent within a year of their allocation.
“The philosophy is: first they build the spaces, then they fill out the staff,” she said. She said the Council hopes to secure more expense funding for the next fiscal year.
The recently Primary Care Initiative Report – which was put together by the HHC, along with a task force convened by Council Speaker Christine Quinn – looked at the barriers the 11 most underserved communities faced to accessing primary care.
Topping the list was waiting room times being too long, which 43 percent of respondents mentioned. At the same time, 24 percent of respondents said their doctor or nurse did not spent enough time with them, while 20 percent said their doctor or nurse did not listen carefully enough. Taken together, these statistics point to people’s dissatisfaction with overcrowded and understaffed facilities in these areas.
The survey also looked at which types of medical care were most difficult to access for people in these areas.
Dentists topped the list, with 50 percent of respondents reporting difficulty accessing one.
Of those surveyed, 30 percent said finding a doctor or a nurse to go to for basic health care needs was hard to find, while 22 percent found it difficult to access a pediatrician. Additionally, 17 percent feel there’s a shortage of prenatal care or obstetrician/gynecological care, while 15 percent said it was difficult to access mental health services.
“While I am disturbed by the findings of this Primary Care Initiative report, these sorry and tragic results must drive us to act,” said Councilmember Diana Reyna, who will host the Woodhull forum with Councilmember Al Vann and HHC personnel.
“It is completely unacceptable that working people do not have access to basic preventive health care. Our community is suffering from health problems that could be addressed easily and cheaper if caught early,” Reyna continued.
The Brooklyn Community Health Forum will be held in the solarium of Woodhull Medical Center, 760 Broadway, on October 16, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The forum is free, and all city residents are welcome.
For more information, contact the offices of Reyna (718-963-3141) or Vann (718-919-0740).