The Floating Hospital aims to put women’s health up front and center.
March marked Women’s History Month, a monthlong observance and celebration of women across the globe. But at The Floating Hospital, women are on the radar all year ‘round, from our dedicated staff members and providers to our largely female (63%) patient base from all five boroughs.
And there was no year like 2020 when women’s health and well-being were so greatly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. When Covid-19 disrupted every facet of life, women were tasked to take care of their families, school their children and if they had employment, show up for that, too—often as frontline employees at risk for exposure to the virus. Not surprisingly, women had little time to take care of themselves.
“As women, we take care of everyone but ourselves,” says Sreeta Karl-Quintana, director of clinic operations at The Floating Hospital.
Now, imagine doing that under the duress of living in a homeless shelter or a domestic-violence safe house: without resources, ready technology, an ability to socially distance, and for many, without income if they lost employment. In the pressure cooker that was New York City during a pandemic, it is little wonder that behavioral-health visits for women—in person and telehealth—were up 25% over the year at The Floating Hospital.
Those events caused staff members to rethink programming for women’s wellness, an area overlooked by most women living in temporary housing. Seven years ago, The Floating Hospital instituted free mammogram clinics as a community service and to show its “passionate commitment to women’s health,” Karl-Quintana said.
This year, to help bridge the gap between caring for others and oneself, The Floating Hospital plans to expand its services for free community care to women, including thrice-yearly mammogram clinics (April, August and October), and screening clinics for cervical cancer and transmissible diseases (STDs). Last month, community outreach director Cynthia Davis launched a weeklong HIV-awareness event for people of all genders, which included screenings, health-education and trivia games with prizes.
“Women in the community are disproportionately impacted, so testing, prevention and the elimination of the stigma associated with HIV was one of the primary goals,” Davis said.
Building upon the clinical offerings, Karl-Quintana hopes to expand programming into self-care events such as mindfulness and stress-management. Through its health-education department, the hospital sponsors a yearly Mother’s Day event for patients with giveaways of pajamas and undergarments, a day of body care and manicures, and a catered lunch.
This should be a regular part of the care women should expect and get,” said Karl-Quintana. “It’s a continuation of the mission and ethos of the clinic.”
Because transportation and finances are the two primary concerns for female patients seeking care, the events will be free and include the same shelter-to-clinic transportation offered to clinic patients. Medical assistances will be on hand to assist with intake, paperwork and referrals as needed.
“We are removing all the barriers and streamlining it for women so they have no excuse to say no,” Karl-Quintana said.
— Lana Bortolot
To find out more about donating items or supporting women’s wellness programming, please contact Floating Hospital Foundation executive director Ellen Barker, firstname.lastname@example.org