The city has been adamant in its stated need for as many hospital beds as possible in order to prevent medical centers from getting totally overwhelmed, but one of the new field hospitals is giving some in the community anything but relief.
The new 68-bed treatment center being constructed in Central Park's East Meadow is designed to treat overflow patients from Mount Sinai Hospital. But the group responsible for putting it all together is Samaritan's Purse — an evangelical Christian organization with strict anti-LGBTQ policies that is run by Franklin Graham, the son of famous televangelist Billy Graham.
The group asks health care workers and volunteers to adhere to a statement of faith, which opposes same-sex marriage.
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Those details have been a cause for concern for a number of lawmakers, including City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who called it "very disturbing" tha the group could potentially turn patients away over their sexual orientation.
"We need reassurances from the city and from Mt. Sinai that Samaritan’s Purse and its volunteers will be monitored, and that the LGBTQ community will not be discriminated against in any way," Johnson said in a tweet. "This is a crisis, but our values remain."
Mayor Bill de Blasio was scheduled to make an appearance at the center on Tuesday, but pulled out after Johnson and other politicians raised questions. He said that the views of Samaritan's Purse are "very troubling" to him, but said his administration will monitor the situation to ensure there is no discrimination.
"I'm very concerned to make sure this is done right, but if this is done right, we need all the help we can get," de Blasio said at a press conference at the U.S. tennis center in Queens, where another field hospital is being built to provide relief for the besieged Elmhurst Hospital.
How Coronavirus Has Grown in Each State — in 1 Chart
New York has quickly become the epicenter of the American coronavirus outbreak. This chart shows the cumulative number of cases per state by number of days since the 10th case.
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Mount Sinai is overseeing the planning, set up and care at the field hospital, and said the treatment will be done solely on a medical basis — not an ideological one. A statement from Mount Sinai said that the hospital and Samaritan's Purse were "unified in their mission to provide the same world-class care to anyone and everyone who needs it, no questions asked."
The hospital also said that the governor's office was involved with connecting the group, which agreed to provide all the equipment for free.
"We sent out a call for help, and they responded," said New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney. "They want to help us save lives, and we need their help."
Maloney said she had a conversation with Mount Sinai officials, who told her they would not discriminate who gets treatment.
In a statement. New York Attorney General Letitia James says, there will be no volunteers at the Central Park facility, however, "We will remain vigilant to ensure discrimination does not occur at this — or any other — facility.
"New Yorkers will always proudly open their hearts and arms to all and warmly embrace each and every one of our diverse and vibrant communities," she continued.