NYC Health + Hospitals to Open COVID-19 Centers of Excellence

Clinics will offer recovery care, including pulmonary and mental health services.

As doctors continue to grapple with COVID and its long-term effects, New York City Health + Hospitals is building three COVID-19 Centers of Excellence. These clinics aim to provide comprehensive outpatient services for people recovering from the virus.

The centers will open in fall 2020 in communities of color hardest-hit by the pandemic — Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx. NYC Health + Hospitals, the largest public health system in the country, is partnering with Provider Solutions & Development to recruit physicians for each clinic.

Patients will be able to receive care through the health system’s ground-breaking NYC Care program, which provides healthcare to all New Yorkers, regardless of access to health insurance, immigration status or ability to pay.

"I am really excited about the access to crucial health care these clinics are going to provide to our most vulnerable," says Dr. Jonathan Jimenez, Director of Community Partnerships for the NYC Care program. "We don’t fully understand all the long-term effects of COVID, and these centers will be designated to care for people who have gone through it and need specialized care."

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio announced the centers after working with the city’s Taskforce on Racial Inclusion and Equity, saying, "Our city will not recover until we address the painful disparities laid bare by the COVID-19 crisis. The Centers of Excellence will move us forward in our fight for a fair recovery and deliver care to the communities that need it most."

COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color, with Black and Latino New Yorkers dying around twice the rate of their white counterparts when adjusted for age. To support patients in recovery, these clinics will provide pulmonary care, and radiologic and diagnostic services, as well as mental health services to address anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and psychological distress.

Each center will have dedicated rooms with negative air pressure for safely isolating and testing patients suspected to have COVID-19. The sites, which will all be primary care clinics, will also house retail pharmacies.

For Dr. Jimenez, who was born at NYC Health + Hospital’s Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens, it’s gratifying that these clinics will increase healthcare access in areas he knows well.

"Ultimately, these centers will improve the health of these neighborhoods," Dr. Jimenez says, "and that will happen by serving New Yorkers that experienced COVID-19 and recovered from it and also those who lost loved ones. They can also address any illnesses that existed before the pandemic, like diabetes or hypertension, knee pain, whatever people need. I think the biggest impact over time will be creating more access to comprehensive primary care."

He says the clinics are a proactive step in ensuring the communities most in need will receive support in the months and years ahead.

NYC Health + Hospitals' President and CEO Dr. Mitchell Katz echoed this sentiment, saying, "When it comes to the novel coronavirus, the global medical community is at an unprecedented disadvantage of not knowing all of the facts and what to expect, but New York City won’t wait around to start seeing the long-term health impacts of this pandemic."

Dr. Jimenez says he looks forward to watching the teams come together at each clinic.

"With everything going on in our country right now, I think a lot of providers are really excited to be part of a health system that takes care of everyone no matter what. That’s exactly what NYC Health + Hospitals has always done, and that mission inspires clinicians. I can’t wait to see who joins us."