Keeping up with these serious but treatable health issues and encouraging people to get inoculated has been a significant challenge. Part of the solution was expanding the role of a dedicated infectious-disease specialist from only once a month to Dr. Kang’s schedule of twice-weekly full office days at the new Long Island City clinic. The Floating Hospital is in the planning stages of building a new dedicated vaccine center in the clinic adjacent to the community center, following its integrated “one stop shopping” model of offering multiple services under one roof.
But, it’s been a challenge during Covid getting the word out about the enhanced services.
“My understanding is [we] used to see more HIV and hepatitis B and C patients and right now, not many because people in the community know we have expanded our infectious-disease services,” she said.
Through health education and shelter and community outreach, she anticipates the word will get out.
“There are many barriers related to where patients live, how they live, and the circumstances they’re under,” says Dr. Kang. “Many times, they don’t have cell phones, so we reach out through the shelters. We try to call them, to educate them on how significant a condition is.”
She cited the experience of long-time social workers at the clinic who understand the many social and insurance issues shelter residents face, and who are experienced in connecting them to resources.
Dr. Kang’s greatest challenge, however, isn’t treating disease or helping her patients establish a path to good health: It’s education. Patients, she said, often don’t understanding the seriousness of a condition or the importance of treatment. Or, in current times, they may have misinformation about the Covid 19 vaccine. And all of this can be impeded by language barrier issues or deep-seated cultural beliefs leading to vaccine hesitancy.
“People are swayed by misinformation very easily. A physician has to have a rapport with her patient and find out a good starting point to begin the conversation,” she says. “It takes time. All the providers here work really hard to educate patients about vaccination, and be encouraging in a gentle manner.”
The Floating Hospital is currently raising funds to build out a new, dedicated vaccination center. For information on how you can help, please contact executive director Ellen Barker, email@example.com