Feb. 28, 2023 By Bill Parry
Conjuring memories from when the borough was the “epicenter of the epicenter” during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards announced a $1.5 million capital funding allocation toward the creation of a new 22-bed Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Mount Sinai Queens in Astoria.
The funding will help replace the hospital’s 8-bed ICU with a significantly larger unit inside the Pavilion building, which opened on Mount Sinai Queens’ campus in 2018.
“Like many other hospitals, the pandemic quickly led to the ICU being overwhelmed with patients,” Richards said on Feb. 24. “Those dark days showed us we need Mount Sinai Queens and all of our hospitals to be in better positions to handle a sudden huge influx of critically-ill patients.”
The pandemic exposed the growing need for critical care beds in the borough. Queens has the highest population of the five boroughs but the lowest hospital bed capacity.
“We need more beds in Queens and I know many of you felt that during the pandemic,” Richards said. “And we’re going to continue to do everything in our power to invest in healthcare.”
The new ICU will also allow the hospital to offer more complex medical and surgical services to Queens residents, eliminating the need for residents to travel over the East River for such treatment.
Dr. Cameron Hernandez, the executive director of Mount Sinai Queens, said the funding will help make the hospital a destination and not a “pit stop” to Manhattan.
“You can only imagine how much we needed this during the dark days of COVID,” Hernandez said. “One of the things is you can do as many procedures as you want here in Queens, but you really need the post-care. We need all of these people to do their best work and the only way they can do their best work is by having a state-of-the-art 22-bed ICU.”
Dr. Nazia Mashriqi, the director of ICU at Mount Sinai Queens, shared a story as to why a larger facility is needed in Queens. She said a western Queens resident was sent by his doctor to Mount Sinai in Manhattan for a cough and labored breathing. He got tests done but was discharged without a diagnosis. He returned to Mount Sinai Queens where the ICU team discovered a rare autoimmune disease. The patient was diagnosed, treated, and discharged after two weeks.
“This is what we do in Mount Sinai Queens. We take care of critically-ill patients with great compassion and it’s impossible for me to exaggerate the importance of an ICU to Astoria, Long Island City, Jackson Heights and the entire Queens borough,” Mashriqi said. By expanding our ICU we can increase our capacity for improving healthcare and this is very important for the borough and the people of our community in Queens.”
The check presentation was part of “Borough Hall on Your Block,” a five-day initiative in western Queens that included town hall meetings, a resource fair for job seekers, immigrants, and youth looking for summer engagement opportunities as well as an older adult wellness day centered on the mental health of seniors.
“Borough Hall on Your Block has been an incredible way to build bridges between my office and the residents we are sworn to serve, and I could not be more grateful for the old relationships we’ve strengthened and the new friendships we have made over the last week,” Richards said. “Thank you to all our neighbors who came out to meet us and thank you to all our elected colleagues, city agencies, and community-based organizations for partnering with us to ensure that western Queens families are given the attention they deserve.”
Additional reporting by Paul Frangipane.