Opinions & Observations: Turn district health clinics into COVID-19 testing clinics
Throughout the city, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene maintains several small buildings, unnoticed by many. Their main function, as the department’s website says, is that of sexual health clinics.
In Brooklyn, there are two: The Crown Heights Sexual Health Clinic at 1218 Prospect Place and the Fort Greene Sexual Health Clinic at 295 Flatbush Avenue Extension. There are others in other parts of the city.
These buildings, some of which go back to the ’30s, were not originally exclusively sexual health clinics. When they were built, there were few medical clinics in the city and few public hospitals.
At the time, tuberculosis was one of the number one medical scourge in the five boroughs. These clinics tested for tuberculosis; contained “well baby” clinics to help young mothers take care of their children; had dental clinics; and also gave flu shots.
However, by the ’50s, hospitals themselves had built their own clinics. The aforementioned Department of Health clinics became more and more in the realm of sexual health clinics, or, as they were known back then, “VD clinics.”
That’s not all they did — they still gave flu shots and handed out health-related literature. However, tuberculosis was less and less of a danger. As far as the well baby clinics were concerned, I’m sure that hospital clinics and private doctors took over those functions.
Where I live, there’s been one of these STD clinics for as long as I can remember. I’ve rarely seen anyone go in there. Then, the coronavirus pandemic hit. A sign was posted outside saying that the clinic would be closed except for maybe two hours per day.
The city and state are always looking for places to conduct coronavirus testing. It seems to me that these clinics would be perfect places to do so. Many of the staff are already medically trained, and would just need a small amount of extra coursework. The semi-private rooms where people could be tested are already there. Let’s reopen these clinics as COVID-19 testing centers while there’s still time.
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