At Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens, a borough that is home to 2.3 million people from more than 100 countries, lactation consultants spend extra time explaining to Bangladeshi women that the yellow breast milk they produce right after birth is not dirty.
Female obstetricians are always on duty overnight at the hospital’s maternity ward in case a Muslim woman arrives in labor and does not want to be treated by a male doctor.
In Harlem, the Medina Clinic opened in May 2009 inside Harlem Hospital Center to cater to the many West African immigrants arriving in the neighborhood. Since many immigrants are devout Muslims, the clinic provides a prayer space. Medical appointments can last an hour or more because many patients with limited or no access to health care in their home countries often have chronic illnesses, like heart disease or diabetes, said Dr. John M. Palmer, executive director of Harlem Hospital.
The doctors at the clinic have seen more than 700 patients since it opened, providing treatment and helping them navigate an unfamiliar and complex health care system. Patients with no insurance often miss follow-up appointments, believing they will be asked to pay for something they cannot afford.
“It takes them time to get the idea of pay scales and subsidized care,” Dr. Palmer said.
The accommodations hospitals make can be subtle but meaningful. At a hospital that is part of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, a Muslim woman admitted for gastric bypass surgery a few months ago was placed in a bed facing east so she would be in the proper direction during her daily prayers.
Dr. Jasmin Moshirpur recalled how different it was when she started working at Elmhurst Hospital 40 years ago, as the sole female obstetrician-gynecologist on the staff.
“A good part of the mentality is still to provide what our patients need,” she said. “Health needs come first, of course, but there’s no question we can be better doctors if we’re also mindful of patients’ cultural needs.”
A good part? Anything less than the whole part seems wrong. Socialism, sharia, and diversity. Welcome to change, America.