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COVID ‘Has Forever Changed’ the Medical Community, Doctors Council President Says

Published Thursday, April 1, 2021
by Naeisha Rose/
COVID ‘Has Forever Changed’ the Medical Community, Doctors Council President Says

(QUEENS, NEW YORK) – Tuesday, March 30th marked National Doctors Day, but New York City Health + Hospitals and the Doctors Council SEIU (Service Employees International Union) kicked off their observances a few days early this month at Elmhurst Hospital to both cheer the skilled healers who care for our communities and to honor the lives lost during the tumultuous first year of the Coronavirus Pandemic. 

Approximately 200 Doctors, Nurses, Medical Staff, Community Leaders, Elected Officials and Union Leaders attended the March 25tj event.

Dr. Frank Proscia (pictured above), who serves as President of the Doctors Council SEIU, called it a “beautiful sunny day filled with a sea of white coats,” that was, nonetheless, heavy with solemnity.

“It’s hard enough to deal with one or two patients that are critical, but if you have back-to-back or side-by-side patients where you couldn’t even walk or patients where everybody was COVID-positive - it’s extremely difficult,” Dr. Proscia said. “It was very much like being a battlefield medic.”

Indeed, the head of the Doctors Council likened the experience to a “war” - one that is having a profound and lasting impact on the entire medical community.

“I was choked up,” Dr. Proscia said. “These memories will live with us forever.  These Doctors are forever changed.  These are not the same doctors that went through COVID-19 more than a year ago.”

Among the approximately 30,000 people that died from COVID-19 in New York City, 53 worked at NYC Health + Hospitals facilities.

“I think (NYC Health + Hospitals) doctors did a gargantuan job at steadying the ship in the storm,” Dr. Proscia said. “Elmhurst Hospital was the epicenter of the epicenter.”

According to Doctors Council Executive Director Kevin Collins, many members used the Doctors Council SEIU hotline to say goodbye to their family members,

“They didn’t think they would survive or make it home,” Collins said. “We also had family members that would call and cry on the phone - it was a very emotional experience.”

Dr. Proscia also said that in honoring Doctors, New York City needs to condemn racism within the health care community itself - including anti-Asian racism: “We have to make sure that our Communities of Color are treated fairly.  They should receive the resources necessary for their health, including the vaccinations.”

Fighting for Doctors also includes recruiting future Doctors, according to Dr. Proscia, so that patients will have enough Physicians and other Medical Professionals to help them in an emergency or the next pandemic.

“This is a battle,” Collins added. “The Doctors wearing the (N95) masks, the goggles, the face shields, the hair nets, the surgical gowns and gloves - that was their armor.  But the emergency room was beyond packed.  There were ambulances around the block.”

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