By Christodoulos Athanasatos
(Translation By Lisa Darilis)
"It is important to us that we have a good hospital in Astoria. When my father had a cardiac episode, we had to take him to Mount Sinai in Manhattan. Unfortunately, this happens here everyday."
In sharing this personal narrative, N.Y. State Assemblywoman, Aravella Simotas, stressed how important this project of constructing a fully equipped expanded branch of Mount Sinai Hospital in the heart of Astoria is. The official ceremony for the development of the new building had all the formalities, including the presence of officials and formal guests. It was a ceremony, for me, that throughout its duration echoed "deja vou," for there are many such places in Western Greece that have not experienced such ceremonies. Throughout the term of my career, there are many times where I have not seen shovels, religious blessings with holy water, nor any such dedications.
The family of assembly woman, Aravella Simotas, come from a broad area of Western Greece called Kefalonia, but she was born and raised in New York. It would be reasonable to think that she adopted more American ways, but it is unfathomable in the year 2013, for Astoria to not have a fully equipped hospital. Patients in Astoria probably had to be transferred to proper facilities in Manhattan on many occasions, having a travel time of 20 to 30 minutes (in heavy traffic make it an hour). She's right..she is telling us something that is self-evident and clear, or perhaps we have forgotten about this as well.
With my mind frame still in Greece, I began to associate these ideas and events. I have been in New York for less than a year, so I began to think to myself about what would have happened to Aravella Simota's father if his cardiac episode happened in his homeland of Greece. Would he have had the option of getting medical care for his serious condition by traveling to a better equipped hospital, and would it be within the same travel distance as Astoria-Manhattan? Would he even have a well equipped hospital available to him? Or perhaps he would have to remain calm and wait for the unlikelihood that an ambulance would arrive on time. I don't need to mention more on the problem of "employee issues," like the possibility of a strike being on, and the absence of vital medical specialists, as well as other "unbelievable" and very "Greek" possibilities that occur in the medical field there.
In terms of what's involved in the business plan, every comparison I make brings on more disappointment. Here, persons accountable at Mount Sinai secured grants and took on the decision to demolish a current hospital wing and make way for a new one. The sponsor for this plan even gave a time frame for when the building would be completed, which is 2016. In addition, it has been estimated that new jobs will be created, and that the construction process will contribute greatly to the local economy.
Let's see what goes on on at the other side of the Atlantic:
I will first chronologically relate an example of a situation that occurred at Pyrgos in the Western Peloponnese. At its hospital's dedication ten years earlier, then Prime Minister, Kostas Simitis, was present. It was a new medical treatment center with very up-to-date technology installed, and plenty of hospital beds, but it had one small thing missing: a proportionate medical staff. I guess they didn't think that was important.
A few miles away, in my special hometown of Patra, there is a hospital called "St. Andreas," or St. Andrew's Hospital, which was damaged from an earthquake. When this happened, the then leadership of the Ministry of Health immediately promised to restore the building. This was in 2008 and five years have passed! The old building is still waiting. The consequences of this could be grievous, as there is always the possibility that people's lives are at stake when occupying this dangerous building. There is also the consequence of the ranks of the health system in this whole region reaching below level.
I don't know if the new building of Mount Sinai in Astoria, N.Y. will be ready before the old building of St. Andrews Hospital in Patras, Greece is. I don't even know if the ceremony for its foundation was similar to ones held in Greece. I will merely bring up my feeling that there exists one huge difference - at the end of Mount Sinai's ribbon-cutting ceremonies, a hospital will actually exist.