Friday Memo- July 19, 2019

Dear Team-

            This weekend’s heat wave will pose a public health threat to vulnerable men, women, and children throughout the City. All, especially older New Yorkers and people with respiratory distress, should take special care. Keep hydrated, which means drink lots of water and not so much dehydrating alcohol. Check on relatives and neighbors who might be at risk. Our clinicians are ready.

            The two toughest annual challenges for Facilities Manager Rodney Smith and his merry band are the major cold snaps of winter and the heat waves of summer – so here we are. Facilities has done great work over the past few years upgrading systems and, essentially, practicing preventative medicine for our 20 plus sites (including mobiles).

            Stuff happens though, often in our older buildings and sometimes beyond our control. We will respond as needed to this heat wave.  I happily want to share a recent story of smarts and sacrifice by several of our staff. It shows perfectly how when bad things happen, we respond.

            Saturday, July 6th, was hot, but not like what is expected tomorrow.  Still, we had a temperature emergency at the Washington Heights Health Center. Ever alert registered nurse Yesenia Santos, mostly known as Jessie, was at work and felt that the temperatures in the medication closets were noticeably higher than normal. The air conditioning was not functioning, and there was nothing we could do about that.

            Community Healthcare Network rents the space for most of our health centers. Regardless of whether we rent or own the space, many of the systems, HVAC included, are usually under our control. But since the still new and beautiful Washington Heights Health Center is in a public school, its systems, including the air conditioning, are not under CHN’s control. No one from the school could be reached to repair what, we learned the next day, were malfunctioning air compressors.

            CHN’s team, with cool heads, sprang into action to rescue tens of thousands of dollars of medication that would spoil if we did not get them to a cooler place. Jessie contacted Center Director Jessica Vargas who reached out to Nurse Manager Laurell Taylor. Facilities joined in and the decision was made to find a place to move the medicine. 

            The crew from the Heights found Yesenia Yangas, Office Manager at our Tremont Health Center, at home. Ms. Yangas, with kids in tow, met Jessie – with ten bags filled with medications – at Tremont. The two heroic “Yesenias,” with help I’m told from Ms. Yangas’s children, got the ten bags to cool storage and the medication and the day were saved.

            There was a happy ending to the story. On Sunday the school fixed the compressors and proper temperatures were restored. Early Monday our Facilities team trekked to Tremont, loaded up the medications, and delivered them back to Washington Heights for an on time health center opening.

            To state the obvious – great work by a large group of well-trained, committed, cool thinking CHN stars. Thank you.


CHN is an organization that serves immigrants, and we are a staff of immigrants and descendants of immigrants. All are welcome at CHN, and we are sickened by the cruelty – in words and acts – that keeps emerging from the federal government. Now the President is threatening large scale raids to deport thousands of immigrants.

            Next week we will distribute palm cards to our health centers advising patients on their rights should ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents attempt to raid their homes. No one should allow ICE in, unless there is a specific warrant signed by a judge. Documented or not, people have constitutional rights.

            It is extremely unlikely that ICE would attempt to enter any of CHN’s facilities. Should that happen, we each should feel empowered to order them to leave. Make sure your supervisor knows what is happening, call the New York City Police, and me (my cell number is at the bottom of the email). Not likely, but let’s keep alert for the sake of all our patients.

            And keep out of the sun.  -Bob