News & Events
MVNHC CEO survives COVID-19 and shares lessons learned from her illness
Friday, 10 April 2020 07:00

By Judith M. Watson, RN, BSN, MPH | Special to the USA Today NetworkPublished 7:00 AM EDT Apr 10, 2020

I watched the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic spread across the globe but never did I think it would affect me personally. I had a cough and then out of nowhere I was home thinking I had a common cold. A week later I found out that I tested positive for COVID-19. I was flabbergasted. I’m a registered nurse, the CEO of a community health center system and I thought I was prepared. Never did I expect the test to come back positive, but it did and I am most grateful that I survived and I have learned some key things that I need to share.  

First, I learned what it is like to become ill and test positive for COVID-19 and how that impacts the individual, their community and the workplace, especially in health care. I worried if I had transmitted the virus to my co-workers and I become hypersensitive to potential stigma. I became more concerned about my credibility as a health care executive than my health in the middle of a pandemic. I wondered if we would have to shut down our health centers.

I was only sick for about 48 hours, but during my three-week quarantine I noticed something troubling. It became obvious that not only did my health centers need to stay open, they were not getting recognized as critical organizations that could greatly help stop the spread of the virus.

judith watson
Judith M. Watson, RN, BSN, MPH is the CEO of the Mount Vernon Neighborhood Health Centers, Inc. which operates three community health centers, a homeless shelter health clinic, and two school-based health centers in Westchester County

As we anticipate the height of the pandemic, community health centers remain largely overlooked. We are not being properly included in public health plans and discussions. In Westchester County, we were the first in the nation to have a state-mandated containment zone for COVID-19. The network of community health centers I run in Mount Vernon, Yonkers, Greenburgh and White Plains normally serve more than 20,000 patients per year. Nationally, community health centers serve some 28 million Americans. I only found out that I was positive because my center had a very small supply of COVID-19 tests. Most hospitals would not have tested me because I was not sick enough.  

Community health centers are the entryway into the health care system for the most vulnerable in the U.S. We don’t turn anyone away based on their ability to pay or their immigration status.   

When everyone else shuts down, community health centers remain open as long as we can because it’s a part of our mission to provide quality, comprehensive primary health care to all.   

For community health centers to provide the remarkable services that we have delivered for more than 50 years — that helped to stem the HIV and opioid epidemics — we need even greater support now for this unprecedented crisis.  

We need more personal protective equipment (PPE) such as medical masks, gowns, gloves, and goggles. These materials keep staff and patients safe and help reduce possible transmission.  

We need emergency funding to continue operating. Community health centers are not-for-profit organizations that receive the bulk of our funding from the federal and state government. Unlike some major medical conglomerates, community health centers do not have major cash reserves and we are anticipating a significant loss in revenue as a result of this pandemic. Without increased emergency funding, and if this crisis extends for months, we may be forced to lay off staff.  

We also desperately need COVID-19 tests. Currently, we still have fewer than 10 tests. Testing helps to reduce the spread of the virus by identifying and enumerating positive COVID-19 cases. In fact, also having antibody COVID-19 tests and more rapid general tests will allow us to determine who has been exposed to the virus but are not exhibiting symptoms and are unknowingly passing it on to others. 

Currently, the established testing sites are set up only for people with automobiles. Millions of people who do not drive are being left out. We could help solve that if we had a significant supply of COVID-19 tests and PPE to assay people in our centers, which are located in neighborhoods where people live, and from our mobile medical units. Community health centers could also greatly benefit from expanding telehealth services so we can connect with patients remotely.  

For more than a half-century, community health centers have mastered comprehensive, quality primary care services for the masses of underserved in our nation. Urgent care centers are popping up all over the place, but community health centers offer so much more than just urgent care. We provide comprehensive, patient-centered, life care. We are with the community not only during health crises.

We are built to be with our patients for a lifetime and we can help the nation overcome this latest daunting health challenge but only if we are included in the response plans and given the support we need. 

Judith M. Watson, RN, BSN, MPH is the CEO of the Mount Vernon Neighborhood Health Centers, Inc. which operates three community health centers, a homeless shelter health clinic, and two school-based health centers in Westchester County. She plans to donate some of her blood to research to aid in developing an antibody that may fight COVID-19. 

 
Mount Vernon Neighborhood Health Center Awarded $2 Million to Fight The Coronavirus Pandemic
Friday, 10 April 2020 10:45

Mount Vernon, NY- The Mount Vernon Neighborhood Health Center Inc., (MVNHC) was recently awarded $2,056,040 by the Health Resources and Services Administrations (HRSA) Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

MVNHC is a front-line health care provider in Westchester County, NY and continues to deliver comprehensive, primary care to all regardless of their immigration status or ability to pay. Many private medical practices and facilities have closed, and scores of area hospitals are overwhelmed. Community health centers like the three centers run by MVHNC in Yonkers, Greenburgh and Mount Vernon remain open.

“These funds will greatly aid the MVNHC system to remain open so we can continue to provide non-emergency health care services for our patients throughout Westchester and the North Bronx” stated Judith M. Watson, CEO of the MVNHC. She added, “these emergency funds will bolster our effort to purchase more Personal Protective Equipment for our exemplary staff so they can remain safe as they provide essential medical care for others.”

Administrators at the MVNHC credited U.S. Congressman Eliot Engle for ensuring that MVNHC received a share in the$1.3 billion CARES Act. Congressman Engle stated, “The coronavirus has had a disproportionate impact on our area, and across the country is affecting communities of color at a much higher rate. We need to take that into account when formulating our response and support health institutions that are most adept at serving vulnerable populations.”

MVNHC staff know firsthand the import of fighting COVID-19. Several staff members have tested positive for the virus. Most have since recovered. One beloved Homeless Program Outreach worker, David Seward, however, succumbed to complications of Coronavirus this week. “The Mount Vernon Neighborhood Health Center system graciously accepts the funds from the CARES Act, in the memory of our longtime employee” explained Ms. Watson.

 
MESSAGE FROM THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
Friday, 13 March 2020 08:06

LETTER FOR CORONA VIRUS FOR WEB AND SOCIAL

LETTER FOR CORONA VIRUS SPANISH FOR WEB

 
YOGA FOR SOCIAL
Monday, 27 January 2020 15:16

YOGA FOR SOCIAL

 
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