Coler Hospital’s caught in a coronavirus crossfire as careless media scrambles after attention, shading lifesaving heroics as the story unfolds.
By David Stone
But they’re not talking, and careless news reporting fills the vacuum.
A Coronavirus Crossfire
Resisting skyrocketing healthcare costs, New York underfunded Coler for years. This facility was not alone, but Health & Hospitals, which oversees Coler, shed nursing homes across the city. The property’s been up for sale for years.
Meanwhile, its population nosedived to under 500.
One bad result was preserving a system of open four bed wards, a relic of old times, bad practice abandoned nearly everywhere else.
Then, the coronavirus swept through New York.
Despite warnings going back to George W. Bush, no one on the federal or state level was ready. Panic followed. Directions changed. Solutions devised on the spot.
But the powerful virus dug in, and after downplaying the threat, Mayor Bill de Blasio joined Governor Andrew Cuomo in scrambling, fighting back. It was all ad hoc, trying this, trying that.
And Coler, its five-story north end vacant, sat waiting, soon in a coronavirus crossfire. While crisis forced tent hospitals in parks, here was a solid structure, needing only to swing back into action.
In the midst of one of his wordy, daily briefings, de Blasio referred to Coler as “empty.” Eager to stir conflict, the press seized on this minor error as evidence of deceit.
But what was the value in undercutting trust in leadership in crisis? Did it really matter if the space was empty or half-empty?
After strong reactions coaxed a course change, de Blasio said the restored north section would house only patients from other hospitals needing space for coronavirus victims.
Then, the news media stepped in, slanting…
Then, that changed too as the City reacted to a rapidly changing scene, inventing the Roosevelt Island Medical Center, an adjacent but separate coronavirus facility on Coler’s grounds.
A newspaper devoted solely to “abuses of power,” ProPublica, accused de Blasio of lying and misleading with conflicting comments. Agility in the face of crisis spun as deceit.
Had anyone at ProPublica any comparable experience?
At Coler, Unavoidable Sorrow
While newspapers published uncorroborated claims about shoddy, high risk conditions inside, administrators reacted calmly.
Local residents with ties to Coler and its population kept perspective.
Judith Berdy heads the volunteer auxiliary, noting that Coler’s staff and patients were “like a family.” The losses were hard on everyone.
Perhaps most touching were worries about Open Doors, a collective of poets, writers and other artists that reached deep into the community.
That started three years ago with a slam poetry reading at Gallery RIVAA. These were beautiful men with gripping stories to tell, lives to interpret.
A year ago, they filled the Howe Theatre with FADE, an original play they wrote. Now, at least two were dead, victims of Covid-19.
At Coler, Happier Days Before the Coronavirus Crossfire
In a ridiculous pursuit of conflict, the news media missed one story that seemed impossible to miss.
As the media inspired coronavirus crossfire swelled, the City moved quickly. Recalling how Super Storm Sandy flooded Coler with rising tides, managers strung flood control barriers all around the facility.
ProPublica never noticed. It was a positive story about rescue and saving, not risking lives.
Who’d click on link bait about that?