Building a Better Healthcare System

By: Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato
July 1, 2020

Every day, we've all tuned in to watch the Governor's daily press briefings - they've been a source for reliable facts and information during the COVID-19 pandemic. These press conferences have crystallized something that we have already known for many years; our healthcare system in this state needs to be better. Watching these press conferences, and having known about the issues our community faces made me think to myself: what can we do better? How can we help our biggest provider of healthcare, St. John's Episcopal Hospital (SJEH), succeed to provide the highest quality of care for our communities? I asked St. John's Episcopal Hospital directly for their input.

You may or may not be aware that before the COVID-19 pandemic SJEH was under a financial evaluation by the State of New York Department of Health, the result of which could be several budget tightening measures that could lessen the quality of care they could provide. Through the advocacy of my office it was put on hold, and after bearing the trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic in one of the hardest hit neighborhoods in New York City, we cannot allow the evaluation to resume.

SJEH responded to me, and they told me that they need the state to conduct a comprehensive Community Needs Assessment (CNA) and provide additional funding for population health community programming. That's why I wrote a letter to Governor Cuomo, stating that I am ready to roll up my sleeves and work with his administration to ensure that SJEH has the resources they need for the programs that will help bolster the care they provide to us. Below is the letter I wrote to the Governor, share it widely and call on the state to help our hospital:

Dear Governor Cuomo,

Thank you for your leadership during this crisis. I have watched your press conferences; I have heard your message and I agree that we need to strengthen our healthcare network in diverse neighborhoods like Far Rockaway that were devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. As you know, St. John's Episcopal Hospital (SJEH) is the only hospital on the Rockaway Peninsula providing care to my constituents. From listening to my community and the administration at SJEH, I am requesting that the State conducts a comprehensive Community Needs Assessment (CNA) and provide additional funding for population health community programming. I appreciate and support your efforts, in addressing healthcare disparities in black and brown communities, especially those impacted by this pandemic. I believe this is the perfect opportunity to merge our goals and create better health equity for the constituents on the Rockaway Peninsula.

As you mentioned in your press conference recently, this pandemic affected South Queens much worse than we ever thought possible. Three zip codes within my district, 11691 (which you mentioned specifically), 11692 and 11694 had three of the ten highest death rates from COVID-19 in New York City. Across the entire peninsula, there were 3,936 cases, and 477 deaths. Preventative programs designed to keep people out of the hospital and live healthier daily lives will preserve the day to day capacity of the hospital, ensuring that if there is a second wave of COVID-19 cases – they will be able to handle the influx, while also promoting healthier lifestyles and choices. Most importantly, a fully funded CNA would shine a light on specific healthcare needs and help direct the resources to where they can have the most substantial impact addressing them in this community. This too will have a preventative effect and help keep the hospital open for those who need acute and emergency care. I am ready to roll up my sleeves and work with you for our only hospital, and we need to make sure we get this right post COVID-19.

Therefore, I am requesting an increase in state funding for St. John's Episcopal Hospital to increase their preventive care programming, and to conduct a community needs assessment. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at (718) 945-9550.

Thank you for reviewing my request.


Stacey Pheffer Amato
Member of Assembly 23rd District, Queens