Office of State Sen. José Peralta
State Sen. Jose Peralta speaks at a rally at the Corona Immunication Clinic to stop its closing. Behind him (l. to r.) , Judith Arroyo, president Local 436, United Federation of Nurses & Epidemiologists, DC 37; Barbara Edmonds, directo of field operations, DC 37 and Fitz Reid, president Local 768, health services employees, DC 37.
Closing down two of only three remaining immunization clinics in the city seems especially thoughtless and cruel even for an administration that, like Mayor Bloomberg’s, is notorious for its blindness when it comes to the most vulnerable New Yorkers.
Yet that’s what the city’s Department of Health is planning to do at the end of this month.
The clinics are in Corona, Queens, and Tremont in the Bronx, and thousands of people visit them for free vaccinations every year. Their disappearance will impact mostly poor immigrants and low-income people, who will be left with only one immunization center miles away in Fort Greene.
One of the most perplexing aspects of this decision is its timing. Taking such drastic action just before the start of a new school year, when parents are lining up at the clinics to get their children immunized, is particularly cold even for this administration.
“Closing the clinics just weeks from the start of school is bullying of the worst kind,” said State Sen. José Peralta (D-Jackson Heights) last week during a protest at the Corona clinic, where union leaders and community groups demanded the city reverse its plans to close it.
“Unless the city is on the brink of financial ruin and needs to close the center immediately to stay afloat, there was no need to go about it this way,” Peralta added. “It’s disrespectful and mean-spirited.”
Worse, it is a public health hazard.
“The Department of Health says there are other providers, pharmacies, doctors that people can go to for their immunizations. But pharmacies are not free; they are businesses, they want to make money. Doctors have to pay salaries, they run a business,” said Judith Arroyo, president of Local 436 at District Council 37, which represents public health nurses.
According to Arroyo, when people see they need to pay and make appointments instead of just walking in like they do now, many will fall through the cracks.
“This puts communities in danger because there are many contagious diseases such as meningitis and others,” she said. “The Department of Health is turning its back on poor and color communities.”
In an ironic twist, as if the mayor’s string of contentious vetoes of every bill that could minimally benefit vulnerable New Yorkers wasn’t enough proof of his disregard for low-income people, the city chose to deprive these neighborhoods of their clinics in August that, as Arroyo points out, is no less than National Immunization Awareness Month.
Not exactly a community relations coup for the lame-duck Bloomberg administration.
The Department of Health says the closings are “necessary to consolidate services and reduce costs.” Less than 1% of vaccinations are given at the clinics, it says.
“Anybody can make up figures,” said Anthony Feliciano, of the Commission on the Public’s Health System, a watchdog group. “One percent? How about the lines that go around the corner?”
One percent or not, what cannot be disputed is that last year the Tremont and Corona clinics immunized 29,108 people, of whom 9,650 were children, and that if the Department of Health gets its way, they won’t be around anymore to provide this essential service to immigrant and low-wage families.
“The Department of Health is forsaking its mission,” Arroyo said. “They simply want to allow people to make money. And that’s not right.”
Thoughtless and cruel, indeed.[/DNDCTEXT][EMAIL]firstname.lastname@example.org[/EMAIL]