Councilmember Eugene Proactive in Predicting Health Crisis

Ventilators at Kings County Hospital_Pic2

One of the city council members that the bourgeois of Prospect Lefferts Gardens and Ditmas Park heavily criticized for being ineffective has proven to be one of the most forward-thinking lawmakers in regard to healthcare and healthcare crisis management as the city reels during the coronavirus outbreak.

Mathieu Eugene
City Council Member Mathieu Eugene

Dr. Mathieu Eugene (D-Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Flatbush, Kensington, Midwood, Prospect Park, Prospect Lefferts Gardens), who has spent his entire tenure in government advocating for, and allocating funds and equipment to Brooklyn hospitals – including state-of-the-art ventilators to Kings County Hospital in 2017 – has now diligently re-crafted two resolutions he initially introduced years ago that never passed.

The resolutions call for the State Department of Health (DOH) to create a special commission to address health emergencies, like infectious diseases, and for the creation of isolation centers for those patients in the event of an epidemic.

“Health should be the number one priority in government,” said Eugene.

Eugene said the resolutions were originally crafted following Superstorm Sandy in 2012, which damaged a significant part of southern Brooklyn neighborhoods including hospitals which suffered tremendously. The natural disaster prompted Eugene to visit some of the hospitals to see the conditions firsthand. 

“The hospitals were overcrowded,” recalled Eugene, “They had to stand the patients. I went to visit one of the hospitals in the emergency rooms, and it was so crowded the doctors and nurses they couldn’t even go through. The beds were too close to each other. There were people sneezing, people touching, that is not a good health condition.”

Four major city hospitals were still closed and feeling the after-effects of the storm weeks later. Coney Island Hospital, for instance, had to reroute patients to nearby hospitals, losing millions in revenue.

“I said if there was a bigger catastrophe what are we going to do?” said Eugene. Because of his medical background and growing concern, Eugene repeatedly posed this question to New York City’s Committee on Health.

Also, in 2017 KCP reported that Eugene helped with the funding for state-of-the-art ventilators to Kings County Hospital. 

“As a healthcare advocate, it is my moral obligation to provide the best medical services to underserved communities,” said Eugene in 2017. “The purchase of this cutting edge equipment is an important step towards securing quality healthcare options for all residents, regardless of income level. Our community deserves the most advanced medical facilities that are possible, and today’s announcement demonstrates that we are making substantial progress towards that goal.”

“Ventilators are important,” Eugene told KCP yesterday. 

Something that has resonated with today’s outbreak more than ever. CNBC reported on Thursday, March 26 that New York has 37,258 coronavirus cases, which rises exponentially every day, and 385 deaths in the state so far. Gov. Andrew Cuomo estimates the state will need roughly 40,000 ventilators at the apex of the outbreak.

“They don’t have a treatment for the virus or a vaccine.The way to help them is to put them on ventilators because one of the faculties is to invade the human body and control, to hijack the cells of the human body, and command the cells to create more viruses,” said Eugene about coronavirus patients.  

Kings County Hospital implemented a no-visitors policy to reduce the spread and has set up blue and white triage tents in front of the main emergency rooms. They don’t appear to be as massively overrun as other hospitals in the city, like Queen’s Elmhurst Hospital Center. 

Tents set up outside the Kings County Hospital Emergency Room entrance for the treatment of coronavirus patients. Photo by Ariama Long.

“We should have a permanent stand-alone institution to respond to emergency containment for diseases,” said Eugene in closing.

Kings County Hospital and NYC Health + Hospitals couldn’t be reached for comment.