SHEEPSHEAD BITES EXCLUSIVE: The city suddenly shut down a medical center in Brighton Beach in June, leaving several doctors with no place to work and no access to their medical records for as long as two weeks.
At least one local activist believes that barring doctors from their records creates a dangerous situation, and feels that the city should implement a procedure to ensure that commercial tenants of a building have the ability to reach vital information in situations such as this.
The medical center, located at 2965 Ocean Parkway, was closed June 13 by the New York City Department of Buildings for lacking a secondary means of egress, a technical term for an entrance and exit. The four-story building had only one open staircase, but, Department of Buildings regulations require an additional staircase for a building of such size in case of an emergency.
The building was locked immediately, without notifying the doctors who worked there.
Disappointed activist Pat Singer, director of the Brighton Neighborhood Association and a member of the community’s Emergency Response Team, said that doctors of the building could not enter their offices, and had no access to their files.
One doctor told Singer that there were 1,000 files in his office that he did not have any access to. Another said that one of his patients had a heart attack, and the situation proved to be extremely problematic because he couldn’t get to the patient’s files. Other patients were on medications that needed to be monitored and doctors needed to reach their files in order to adequately treat them.
Furthermore, patients had trouble reaching their doctors being that the office was closed for as long as two weeks, and with no access to files, doctors had trouble reaching their patients.
“It’s a dangerous situation, when doctors and patients can’t reach each other,” Singer said.
Dr. Alexander Shekhter, an internist who worked in the medical office for several years, was extremely upset with the manner in which the shutdown was handled.
“My patients suffered for almost three weeks, and I suffered without a practice for almost three weeks,” Shekhter said. “I couldn’t access my files and I had no place to work.”
Shekhter feels that the doctors should have been given a warning before the building was locked up. This way, they’d have time access their files and possibly find a new office.
“They need to have a plan,” he said.
Singer stated that the building stood in violation of the egress requirements for at least six years without any intervention from the Department of Buildings. Singer feels that the issue should have been dealt with beforehand and that the building should not have been opened originally until the problem was solved.
A spokesperson for the Department of Buildings said that the agency only investigated the building now because they had received a complaint from an anonymous source. Therefore, they only just discovered this violation, and consequently, the building was closed.
Yet being that people have worked there for years, Singer believes that the doctors could have been given one more day to retrieve their files.
Singer said that the doctors asked for permission to get into the building and access their files, but the landlord said that he would not allow it unless they received permission from the Department of Buildings.
However, the Department of Buildings said that doctors were in fact given permission to access the building from the start, as long as they cleared it with the landlord, creating a confusing and contradictory situation.
“In the future, if the department feels a building is unsafe, they should have a procedure in place to give workers access to their important information,” Singer said.