It’s déjà-vu for two major immunization walk-in clinics as the city renews its plans to close the sites by the end of the month, according to union leaders.
In August, the City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) announced it would close the Corona Health Center, located at 34-33 Junction Blvd., and the Tremont Health Center in the Bronx. After community protest, the city temporarily stopped the plan and rescheduled the closing for the end of 2013.
Yet, after keeping the clinics open into the New Year with funds provided by the City Council, closures are expected for the end of February.
“The function of immunization is prevention,” said Fitz Reid, president of Local 768, a union representing health care workers. “It’s not just job protections, it’s to protect the children, protect the public.”
The closures are expected to severely limit access to free and low-cost immunizations for low-income and poor families, protecting them from diseases such as the flu, meningitis, Hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella and others.
The DOHMH also plans on cutting the hours of its STD clinics, according to union leaders.
Public employee union District Council 37 tried to hold a meeting with the Health Department, but said it was not productive as no immunization representative attended. The group now wants to schedule a new meeting with the hope of getting their concerns heard by the department’s newly appointed commissioner, Dr. Mary Bassett.
“We’re hoping that when she takes the reigns, we’ll be able to meet with her and have a productive meeting where we emphasize the importance of the clinics in the communities,” said Judith Arroyo, president of Local 436, United Federation of Nurses and Epidemiologists. “We’re just waiting for a response.”
According to Arroyo, the immunization clinics are necessary because they serve as the first step for immigrant families to learn about health care and begin immunization records for their children.
One of the major issues at hand is that every closure has been kept from the community, said leaders. Residents would then have to travel to the Fort Greene Health Center, located at 295 Flatbush Ave. in Brooklyn, the city’s only walk-in immunization clinic.
“I continue to oppose the closure of the Corona immunization clinic,” Councilmember Daniel Dromm said. “The Department of Health unfortunately has decided to keep their plans for the center in the dark. Residents need to have access to these services, including school children who are required to have certain shots before attending class.”
The DOHMH did not respond to requests for comment as of press time.