Eugene: History of healthcare advocacy aimed to prepare NYC for current pandemic

From left, Dr. Steven Pulitzer, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County; Former CEO Ernest J. Baptiste; Council Member Dr. Mathieu Eugene; and Respiratory Care Services and staff with a new Maquet Servo neonatal ventilator.
Office of Council Member Mathieu Eugene

Long before the phrases “social distancing” and “flatten the curve” entered into what is fast becoming the everyday lexicon of New Yorkers, Brooklyn Council Member Dr. Mathieu Eugene’ says his advocacy for improved healthcare resources focused on preparing the city for emergency crises similar to the current novel coronavirus outbreak.

In April 2017, the Haitian-born legislator, who represents the 40th Council District in Brooklyn, said he allocated funding to NYC Health + Hospitals Kings County for the acquisition of the largest fleet of state-of-the-art respiratory equipment in New York City.

Eugene, a physician by training, said the hospital was able to acquire 15 adult ventilators and five neo-natal ventilators, “which greatly increased the hospital’s ability to provide urgent medical care.”

At the time, he said no other hospital in Brooklyn had that type of neonatal ventilator.

“The acquisition put Kings County Hospital at the forefront of life-saving medical technology, an advantage that will be needed to address the current influx of respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus,” Eugene said.

“Our medical facilities need the most advanced life-saving medical equipment to properly address the health issues of the community,” he added. “This is critically important when the community faces a healthcare crisis like the novel coronavirus, when equipment such as ventilators will be in high demand across the city.”

Eugene, the first Haitian to hold elective office in New York City, said he continued his advocacy to create a “concrete approach” to address public health emergencies with Resolutions 637 and 638, introduced in November 2018.

Resolution 637 called on the United States Department of Health and Human Services and the New York State Department of Health to create a special commission to address health emergencies and infectious diseases.

Resolution 638 called on the Department of Health to create stand-alone, self-contained isolation centers or units for the treatment of patients with infectious disease due to epidemic, including highly contagious and airborne diseases.

Eugene said both resolutions are aimed at alleviating the burden that officials at the city, state and federal levels are facing, as they work to provide beds and emergency care for coronavirus patients, which something “should have been put into place long ago.”

“The health and well being of the community have always been my top priority as an elected official,” the council member. “I have had the opportunity to work with so many healthcare officials in New York City, and I am extremely grateful for their compassion and dedication to caring for New Yorkers.

“I also want to thank officials in the city, state and federal government, who have been steadfast in their efforts to create and maintain an infrastructure that provides critical healthcare resources to those who need them,” he added. “This is a monumental undertaking, and it is up to each of us to do our part in supporting their work.

“In this time of crisis, we have doctors, nurses and medical professionals who are literally putting their health at risk to save people from this deadly virus,” Eugene continued. “They are heroes, and that is why it is so important to provide them with the resources they need to perform emergency medical care.

“But we must also be forward thinking and more prepared for scenarios where a city will face an infectious disease outbreak, epidemic or pandemic,” he said. “his is when our medical facilities will be put to the test in order to save lives, and it is important that we have the resources in place to protect our residents.”

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