In what made for a bright, celebratory morning, leaders and staff from NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health, Morrisania and Independence Care System (ICS) joined nonprofit, city and state officials for a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the hospital’s newly renovated radiology suite.

The modernized space—a more than $850,000 initiative funded by the New York City Council with support from ICS—is a comprehensive addition to Morrisania’s Bronx campus that adds sustainable, high-quality diagnostic services that are fully accessible to adults with physical disabilities. The radiology suite features a modified mammography machine that accommodates women who use wheelchairs, as well as a patient lift and a height-adjustable examination table. The facility includes widened exam rooms to accommodate wheelchairs, and the suite now allows the facility to increase capacity and facilitate additional procedures for people with disabilities, such as sonograms and dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry.  

In addition to H+H and ICS representatives, the ribbon-cutting ceremony was attended by leaders and representatives from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, United Spinal Association, and the New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. State Senator Gustavo Rivera and City Councilmember Vanessa Gibson offered congratulatory remarks, along with Anastasia Somoza, representing the NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who has long supported the partnership between H+H and ICS. Mentioned repeatedly was a strong shared commitment among all the groups present to continue the work of making quality healthcare accessible to people with disabilities.

NYC Health + Hospitals’ Vice President of Ambulatory Care Dr. Ted Long noted that too often, the needs of people with disabilities are overlooked. As a result, they stop seeking life-saving, preventative care.

“We can’t accomplish our mission to ensure access to all New Yorkers until those with disabilities have equal access to all of our system services,” he said.

Dr. Long lauded ICS for being instrumental in securing capital funding for the renovation, and for its steadfast advocacy for people with disabilities. He thanked ICS Senior Vice President of Advocacy Marilyn Saviola—a longtime disability rights advocate who founded ICS’ Women’s Health Access Program—for her efforts to ensure that the renovated radiology suite became a reality.

“We would not be here today if it was not for ICS bringing the needs of people with disabilities to the attention of healthcare providers, the government, and the general public,” he said. “ICS is a trusted partner, and a valued partner, who we relied on heavily in the design process of this project.”

Senator Rivera, who also chairs the Senate Health Committee, commended H+H, ICS and the city council for coming together to create the state-of-the-art, fully-accessible radiology facility.

“I’m very glad, always, when there’s a demonstration of a commitment of our public health system to serve all New Yorkers and in this case, all Bronxites,” he said.

A natural partnership

H+H was one of the first healthcare providers to embrace ICS’ goal of making breast cancer screening, gynecological services, and primary care accessible to adults with multiple sclerosis (MS), spinal cord injuries (SPI), cerebral palsy, and other mobility-related disabilities. ICS partners with several H+H facilities, including Woodhull and Gotham Health, Sydenham in providing access to critical health services for women with disabilities.

Morrisania’s initial partnership with the ICS Women’s Health Access Program led them to make small, relatively inexpensive changes that made their services more accessible. Since then, hundreds of ICS members have received services at Morrisania. For some women with disabilities, it was the first time they were ever able to receive an accurate mammography or preventative GYN care. For others, it was the first time they had access to services since acquiring their disability.

“Health + Hospitals and ICS are natural partners because we are passionate about seeing that the most vulnerable people in our city are able to get quality, cost-effective healthcare,” said ICS Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer Regina Martinez-Estela.

ICS member and H+H patient Sharifa Abu-Hamda noted that because of the partnership, she now has an accessible facility where she can receive gynecological exams.

“For years I could not find an accessible clinic to do my annual gynecological exam so I had to take my brother along to transfer me onto the examination table,” she said. “You could only imagine how embarrassed and upset I felt. After a while, I just gave up. But now, I finally have access to facilities where ICS has trained the staff to care for people with disabilities.”

Marilyn Saviola honored

In what made for a special surprise, Dr. Long presented Marilyn Saviola with H+H’s Community Health Advocacy Award for her “indescribable contributions” in expanding access to healthcare and services for people with disabilities.

“I am truly delighted today, to celebrate not only this beautiful, newly-renovated accessible imaging center but also the wonderful relationship with the New York City Council and the NYC Health + Hospitals that has brought us here and that promises to continue the progress we have begun toward making healthcare more accessible,” Saviola said. “This unexpected honor means a great deal to me. I applaud the hospital system’s commitment to serving our community with high-quality care, and I look forward to our growing work together.”