Senator Chuck Schumer took a tour of the Sandy-ravaged Coney Island Hospital on Tuesday, January 8.
He was accompanied by Alan Aviles, president of the New York City Health and Hospital Corporation, and Arthur Wagner, executive director of the hospital.
As he toured both of the hospital’s buildings – including the basement that was completely flooded with sea water during the storm, knocking out the electrical system – Schumer said that he had a special relationship with the hospital. He represented the district surrounding the area for 37 years as a State assemblymember and congressmember, and his mother-in-law was a clerical worker at CIH for 30 years.
“I know the place very well. It’s a vital part of the community,” Schumer said, adding that it provides 2,800 jobs and is the only hospital in southern Brooklyn, serving 80,000 residents.
Schumer vowed to fight for the $60 billion Sandy Relief Bill, which the House will vote on sometime next week. He said that $810,000 would go to CIH and Bellevue Hospital, the only major health care facilities affected by the storm.
But according to Wagner, the full price tag to rebuild CIH is $200 million.
“When you come here and see what is going on, that’s when it hits home,” Schumer said, adding that FEMA covered the cost of the clean-up, new equipment and beds. “It’s a half a mile inland and no one thought it would get hit.
“Until they get the money, we can’t rebuild,” he went on.
Aviles he had “deep appreciation” for Schumer’s efforts and said that the hospital would take preventive measures when rebuilding.
“We can’t recreate the ER on the ground floor and not expect this to happen again,” he said. “We need to think about what to do now in order to protect this facility and others. Admittedly, this is an expensive operation.”
Those plans include co-locating MRI and CAT-scan machines near the ER for easier access, putting expensive equipment on upper floors and putting older buildings on top of risers.
Wagner added that every building sustained damage, but all patients were “well taken care of” during the storm. Staff has been redeployed to Woodhull and Kings County Hospital.
But there are slow signs of recovery.
The ambulatory care clinic moved into a building on January 9, after being housed in a temporary space since the storm hit. The ER has been newly painted and got new flooring, although there are only 24 beds, making it a third the size of the original.
Schumer said he was “optimistic and worried” about the relief bill passing. In the best case scenario, the bill would be on President Obama’s desk by Friday, January 25.