Borough President Antonio Reynoso made the last of three multi-million dollar allocations to NYC Health + Hospitals with on July 28, with $15.625 million in funding headed to the system’s Kings County hospital.
The allocation — like the two that came before it — rounds out Reynoso’s distribution of 2023 fiscal year capital funds, the entirety of which was spread across three public hospitals to refine maternal health care services in an effort to reduce mortality rates of Black pregnant people in Brooklyn.
The beep’s third and final allocation will revamp NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County’s newborn intensive care unit (NICU) and Mother-Baby units.
“When thinking through what could help save a life and make someone’s birthing experience more positive, we often think of the clinicians and equipment, even training. However, [the] environment is critical to ensure a birthing person, their support system, and their care team have not just the necessary space but the proper surroundings to make someone feel at ease, and triage any life-threatening situation,” Reynoso said. “As I’ve mentioned before, we’re thinking through all the ways pregnant people and their care teams can be empowered through the birthing experience to help save lives.”
At NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County, the funds will go toward transforming the NICU and Mother-Baby units into “family-friendly spaces” that will provide comfort and privacy for parents and newborns — all while working to address the racial inequality in health care.
“I am proud to announce the upcoming renovation of NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County’s NICU and Mother-Baby units,” Sheldon P. Mcleod, CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County. “These advancements will work towards combating the health disparities in maternal health. We continue to ensure all mothers who walk through our doors receive the highest quality care in a spacious, welcoming environment.”
Reynoso ran for borough president on a platform which included addressing the Black maternal health crisis in Brooklyn. Since being elected, he has supported outpatient care and increased health care access for all birthing people, and in April he formed a Maternal Health Task Force that has begun creating their operational strategies and is already looking to expand.
“The initial members of our Maternal Health Taskforce bring decades of expertise in maternal healthcare, wraparound services, community engagement, advocacy, and other spaces that are needed to holistically approach the crisis of maternal mortality disparities seen in our communities,” the borough president said in a statement on his website. “I look forward to working with these experts and literally saving lives.”
Thursday’s funding announcement comes on the heels of two others — late last week Reynoso announced the allocation of $11 million to NYC Health+Hospitals/Woodhull Hospital in Bedford-Stuyvesant and and on Tuesday he announced another $18.5 million for NYC Health + Hospitals/Coney Island.
Wendy Wilcox, chief women’s health officer for NYC Health + Hospitals, said the healthcare system was grateful for the beep’s contributions.
“Borough President Reynoso’s commitment to the women of Brooklyn is outstanding and aligns with the work NYC Health + Hospitals has been engaged in since 2018 to improve the health of women and families,” Wilcox said in a statement. “The capital funding Borough President Reynoso has dedicated to NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County and the other Brooklyn facilities will change more than infrastructure — it will change the way in which our public health system delivers care to birthing patients. This gift will be transformational. NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County will provide patient-centered, family-centered holistic care.”
Reynoso was joined at his announcements by colleagues in government, all of which stood in support of the work the former councilmember is doing to make Brooklyn health care safer for people of color.
“Maternal mortality and morbidity is a national issue that hits home in Brooklyn as our rates are the highest in New York City, shining a light on the racial inequity black and brown birthing people face due to lack of equitable medical care,” Councilmember Farah Louis said in a statement. “Borough President Reynoso’s leadership on this critical issue is necessary to build our Health + Hospitals reputation as a birthing destination. By investing in birthing centers for Woodhull, Coney Island, and Kings County hospitals we are closing the gap to a historical disparity and creating equitable maternal health outcomes for safer birthing experiences.”
The mortality rate for “non-Hispanic Black women was 55.3 deaths per 100,000 live births as of February 2022, according to data released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention — more than two times the rate for non-Hispanic White women.
Brooklyn had the second-highest birthrate in the five boroughs in 2019, the most recent year for which data is available, with 89.7 pregnancies per 1,000 women of childbearing age, and had the highest number of deaths — 15 — attributed to pregnancy, childbirth, or postpartum complications. East New York and Brownsville had some of the highest numbers of infant mortality of all New York City neighborhoods, and Brooklyn as a whole had an infant mortality rate of 6.7% — representing 1,300 deaths.
And in August 2021, researchers with the National Institute of Health shared the rate may be higher than what was previously reported.
“Thank you, Borough President Reynoso, for your foresight and vision to enhance the experience of birthing patients in Brooklyn,” Wilcox said.
Additional reporting by Kirstyn Brendlen