NYC Health & Hospitals spending $142M to build Covid recovery clinics

NYC Health & Hospitals’ plan to build Centers of Excellence in areas that have been hardest hit by Covid-19 in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens will cost about $142 million, according to state filings.

The health system is developing clinics in the Tremont section of the Bronx, Bushwick in Brooklyn and Jackson Heights in Queens.

The goal of the centers is to provide outpatient services to people at high risk of contracting Covid-19, as well as short- and long-term follow-up care for those recovering from the disease.

Preliminary evidence links Covid-19 to potential heart damage, lung injuries, blood clots and mental health conditions. Health & Hospitals said it expects the centers will address those issues when they open in September, said Dr. Ted Long, H&H’s vice president of ambulatory care.

The health system has examined the experiences of people recovering from other coronaviruses, including the ones that cause SARS and MERS, to determine what services might be necessary in the clinics. The centers will include on-site pulmonary function testing, echocardiography and behavioral health support, H&H said, as the health system is concerned that people who were treated in an ICU might suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Judging from the experience with SARS and MERS, there will be long-term residual effects from having the virus,” Long said. “Hopefully that won’t be the case with many, if anybody. We are definitely planning to be in this for the long haul.”

The health system received emergency approval from the state in May to start renovating existing clinics in those areas, and it followed up this month by seeking permanent approval through certificate-of-need applications. 

Several area providers have looked to establish outpatient centers where people who have been treated for Covid-19 could receive follow-up care, including Mount Sinai, Hackensack Meridian and Richmond University Medical Center.

In Bushwick, H&H leased 51,000 square feet at 815 Broadway to serve the neighborhoods of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Bushwick, East New York and Williamsburg. It plans to spend $77 million on the renovation The area has been identified as underserved by the Community Health Care Association of New York State. H&H plans to offer primary care and mental health as well as pulmonology, cardiology, vascular care and diagnostic radiology.

H&H is leasing 24,000 square feet at 1920 Webster Ave. in the Bronx to create the center in Tremont, with construction costs of $34 million. It primarily will serve the areas of Bronx Park, Crotona, East Tremont, Fordham, Hunts Point and Mott Haven.

The system is locating the Queens center in about 23,000 square feet on the second floor of 37-50 72nd St. in Jackson Heights. It expects the clinic, which will cost $31 million to build, to serve patients in northwest Queens. The building is about a half-mile from Elmhurst Hospital, which handled a surge of Covid-19 patients in late March.

H&H announced plans to build community health centers in those areas back in October 2018 but has now tailored them to needs that arose from the pandemic.

The three areas also have higher rates of uninsured patients, and H&H hopes to provide outpatient care and avoid hospitalizations due to lingering problems from Covid-19.

To that end, the NYC Care program helps connect uninsured New Yorkers to primary care. The city has enrolled about 25,000 people in the program, and it expedited its expansion to Manhattan and Queens this year.

“There’s a big opportunity for us to be connecting people getting Covid—who may not have had a doctor they knew or trusted—to primary care,” Long said.

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