Yesterday the mayor stood in Far Rockaway to announce the opening of seven city-sponsored "Restoration Centers" to "bring together information and referral to all of the City government services available in the aftermath of the storm," and provide services such as "health and medical benefits." It's unclear if that means medical treatment, which is still sorely needed in areas like the Rockaways. "There's just a lot of red tape when we try to fill prescriptions for people who really need insulin, antibiotics, heart medication, depression medication, and high blood pressure medication," said Dr. Rob Gorski, who has been volunteering for a clinic at St. Francis Church on Beach 129th Street. "Organizations like AmeriCares have access to these prescriptions, but it's difficult to get them to people for bureaucratic reasons."
Gorski, who lives on the Lower East Side and practices in a New Jersey emergency room, said that by late last week, "one of the police surgeons working with us got on the horn with City Hall and slowly there was some improvement," but that the clinic was still struggling to serve residents. "There's just an uncertainty to it all, a lack of leadership and coordination with some of these other organizations," Gorski said. "I didn't even know there was a clinic on 113th Street until I read the piece about it, so it's as if people are just operating in isolated pockets along the peninsula."
Gorski notes that the clinic he volunteers for sees many of the same issues with its patients as Occupy Sandy's, including hygiene problems, fatigue, and vulnerable residents who are forced to walk down 18 flights of stairs to receive desperately-needed treatment.
The clinic is around 13 feet by 10 feet, has no heat, and as of late last week, no power. Treating patients was made even more difficult during last week's snow storm. "You can see your breath at night. We had a couple of hypothermic people come in and we had to warm them up with a bunch of blankets," Gorski said. "The shock and awe of the storm has started to wear off, and now people are just slogging through the mud."
When asked to describe what he feels the region needs most, Gorski, who said he travels to the Rockaways twice a week to surf in the summer, notes that the residents lacked sufficient medical access even before the storm hit. "Peninsula Hospital closed, and you could tell a lot of people felt kind of disenfranchised. They had such limited access before Sandy." Gorski adds, "There's a photo in my set of a wall spraypainted with the sentence, 'Where is our hospital?' I feel like that easily could have been written before the storm."