Bay Ridge

Rose to VA: Open hospitals to civilian patients

March 23, 2020 Paula Katinas
Veterans hospitals, like the one in Bay Ridge, should be able to accept civilian patients during the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. Rep. Max Rose said. Photo: Paula Katinas/Brooklyn Eagle
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As hospitals become stretched to the limit with coronavirus cases, New York state officials need to think outside the box when it comes to treating patients during the pandemic, according to U.S. Rep. Max Rose.

Rose, a U.S. Army veteran, has offered up one idea: Open up veterans’ hospitals to civilian patients on an emergency basis, including the V.A. Medical Center at 800 Poly Place in Bay Ridge.

Rose has written to Gov. Andrew Cuomo to urge him to issue a request to the federal government to get the ball rolling.

The idea makes perfect sense, according to Rose, a Democrat representing Southwest Brooklyn and Staten Island.

“We’re in uncharted, unprecedented times where all of us need to come together to find creative ways to ramp up health care capacity as fast as possible before it’s too late,” said Rose, who, prior to entering politics served as an executive at a non-profit health care firm on Staten Island.

Under Rose’s vision, the VA hospitals would still maintain their primary mission, to treat military veterans, while at the same time easing the burden on overloaded medical facilities by treating civilians.

“As a veteran myself, I never want to take away from the VA’s ability to serve and treat our veterans. But if we do not act now, that will happen and for a much longer time. Our veterans are particularly at-risk from coronavirus, so we must be ready to deploy every option available to bend the curve and having VA resources available in the worst case scenario is a part of that,” Rose said.

The Brooklyn VA Medical Center, which is part of the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System, has 150 bed in-patient beds and treats more than 300,000 outpatients each year, according to Harbor Healthcare.

Cuomo has floated the idea of converting the massive Javits Center on Manhattan’s West Side into a 1,000-bed hospital, the New York Post reported on March 21.

The Javits Center was one of four spots the governor identified as potential sites for emergency field hospitals that could be re-purposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The V.A. health care system, as part of its role in the country’s National Response Framework and the National Disaster Medical System, can supplement medical systems at the request of state or local authorities, according to Rose, a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

In order for the VA to open up its facilities to the general public, the governor would make a request on behalf of the state to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which then would offer approval and direction to the VA.

“The VA must adhere to several missions in serving the American public, and while its number one mission must always be caring for our veterans, it is time for VA to serve another key function — to provide hospital care and emergency services to non-veteran civilians during emergencies,” wrote Rose in his letter to Cuomo.

New York State currently has 53,000 hospital beds, but health experts warned that the state will likely need as many as 110,000 beds to deal with the current pandemic.

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