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Congresswoman Meng visits Elmhurst hospital to celebrate projects from $1.8 Million federal funding

Congresswoman Grace Meng visited NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst on May 2 to celebrate nearly $2 million in allocated federal funding. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

May 21, 2024 By Iryna Shkurhan

Queens Congresswoman Grace Meng visited New York City Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst on Monday afternoon to celebrate the $1.8 million in federal funding she secured for two major projects.

The bigger share of funding was designated for the renovation of the first-floor Infectious Diseases Clinic – the hospital’s oldest section, which has not been renovated since it opened in the 1950s. Despite the outdated facility, it has continued to offer care, support and preventative services for infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, hepatitis and HIV. 

“As you can see, it needs some love and attention,” said CEO Dr. Helen Arteaga-Landaverde. “It’s going to modernize us, and more importantly, it’s going to give our patients the space they truly deserve. I couldn’t ask for a better partnership with our federal government and our federal leaders.”

One longtime patient of the hospital, Annie Safia, recalled receiving care at the site during the AIDS epidemic when fear was at an all-time high. And since 1989, she has returned to the clinic for her treatment. 

A longtime patient of the Infectious Diseases Clinic thanked the staff for their care at the groundbreaking on the renovations for the Infectious Diseases Clinic.Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

“When I came here, there were school desks here. There were no desks for the doctors taking in patient after patient after patient. You guys not only saved my life, you gave me hope,” said Safia at the groundbreaking ceremony. 

Administrators and medical staff at the hospital expressed gratitude to the Congresswoman, who also previously administered $3 million for the hospital’s new labor and delivery wing in 2022.

“Hopefully this project will modernize the clinic and transform it into an updated spot so that our patients can receive the high quality care in a more contemporary atmosphere that is warm, welcoming and comfortable,” said Congresswoman Meng before taking a sledgehammer to the wall. 

On the third floor, the officials cut the ribbon on the hospital’s new Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Suite, which treats depression and other mental illnesses. The space is centered around the TMS machine, which uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the patient’s brain. 

The Elmhurst hospital of the NYC Health + Hospital system was the first to receive the TMS technology to treat depression.

The $800,000 in federal funding helped secure what one doctor described as the “latest and greatest in TMS technology” for Queens patients. The Elmhurst Hospital was also the first in the New York City Health + Hospitals system to receive the technology. 

TMS treatment is generally offered at larger hospitals or private physiatry clinics, and the entire six-week round of treatment can cost between $6,000 and $12,000. 

“We’re probably the only TMS provider in all of the city who will see patients regardless of income insurance status, or immigration status,” said Dr. John Mackenzie, who pointed out that since many of the patients who come through their doors are on Medicaid or uninsured, they typically would not be able to receive TMS treatment otherwise. 

Dr. John Mackenzie with his patient Steven Traina, who underwent TMS treatment and reported seeing an improvement in his symptoms.Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

One patient who recently underwent TMS treatment with Dr. Mackenzie shared his own journey with living with depression for most of his life, as well as a more recent ADHD diagnosis. He qualified for the treatment because antidepressant medication was either ineffective or the side effects were intolerable. 

“I’ve pretty much had depression most of my life,” Steven Traina shared. “After the first couple of treatments I really started to feel different. I didn’t feel I didn’t feel fatigued as I always did, I didn’t feel unmotivated. I started to see the world in a whole different way that I hadn’t seen in a long time.” 

Patients like Traina are able to carry on with their day after sitting through the painless and quick 20-minute session. 

One doctor at the hospital volunteered to demonstrate how the machine is set up on a patient.Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

Dr. Makenzie noted that he’s seen an improved response in more than half of the patients they’ve treated in the past six months. 

The hospital currently has another type of TMS machine on order that is specifically designed to treat Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and help with smoking cessation.

“I just am trying to do my small part to make sure that we are continuing to give love and hope through federal funding so that we can help even more people,” said Congresswoman Meng. “The two projects that we’re commemorating this afternoon are sorely needed.”

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