Editor’s Note: KCP edited this op-ed for length.
In light of this painful and demoralizing tragedy that has exposed the vulnerabilities of our healthcare system, our medical staff, and the patients they care for, I feel compelled to highlight my advocacy for a more prepared framework that is able to address this type of catastrophe.
In 2018, I introduced two pieces of legislation in the City Council to request the creation of infrastructures that would help the city, the state, and the federal government be better prepared in the event of a public health emergency.
Resolution 637 called on the United States Department of Health and Human Services and the New York Department of Health to create a special commission to address health emergencies and infectious diseases.
The purpose of this legislation is to build an infrastructure that would be proactive in easing the burden at all levels of government in the event of a virus spreading throughout the population. It would establish a commission that is equipped to address a public health crisis and allow the government to continue its main functions without the need to shut down businesses and upend the system. This legislation is intended to save lives and help government and healthcare officials better manage patient care in the event of a pandemic.
New pathogenic agents are constantly emerging, and older ones can adapt to resist current treatments and engender new challenges. The next outbreak of infectious disease could develop unexpectedly, and we must be proactive and more prepared to identify, treat, and contain it in a manner that does not bring our communities and economy to a halt.
In addition, Resolution 638 calls on the New York State Department of Health to create stand-alone, self-contained isolation centers or units for the treatment of patients with infectious diseases due to an epidemic, including highly contagious and airborne illnesses.
This measure is critically important, as it would allow our healthcare workers to separate patients with highly contagious infections from those hospitalized with pre-existing health conditions. It would resolve the current crisis in our hospitals by providing extra beds in a protected area to care for infected individuals without presenting a risk to other patients and medical staff, a problem we are currently seeing throughout our healthcare system.
Our doctors, nurses, and other health workers are stressed and overworked. They are getting sick as they manage thousands of contagious patients, all of whom require immediate care to be saved. It takes time and an abundance of resources to expand our medical services to a capacity where they can properly handle the influx of new coronavirus cases. This is an unfair hardship to place on our healthcare workers and those who need to be protected in order to do their jobs.
My legislation would not only ease the strain that our government officials are now operating under, it would also improve the ability of doctors, nurses, and medical staff to care for patients who were already dependent on critical treatments due to life-threatening disorders.
I believe that we have the resources to build the greatest healthcare system in the world that is capable of improving its response to any type of health crisis because New York and the United States are home to the most qualified, compassionate, and dedicated medical professionals.
These workers are saving lives every day, but they deserve a safer and more protected environment to continue to do what they love, which is caring for the hardworking people who personify the qualities that our nation was founded on.
The conditions in which our heroes are working is demoralizing because, despite their courage and dedication, they are still human beings. As a society, we must collectively stand up for their protections as first responders.
One of the best ways to honor them, to pay tribute to them, and to show our gratitude is to create better health infrastructures and resources that will provide them with safer working conditions and tools to address the next health crisis.
Point of Clarification: This is not to serve any political purpose or agenda but instead to urge all people to work together to overcome this horrible crisis and continue to advocate for a better medical system suitable to efficiently handle future crises involving infectious diseases, epidemics, or pandemics. This is something that I have been advocating for through legislation introduced years before the current pandemic.
City Councilmember Mathieu Eugene represents Brooklyn 40th District including all or parts of Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Flatbush, Kensington, Midwood, Prospect Park and Prospect Lefferts. In his tenure as a council member, Eugens has consistently been on the frontlines concerning public healthcare issues.