The state of New York plans to expand a trauma center in southern Queens, in part to plug a deficit in care for gun violence victims. 

In 2019, The Trace reported, in partnership with THE CITY and Measure of America, on the “trauma desert” in that part of the city. Our analysis of the 12,000-plus shootings recorded by the NYPD between January 2010 and October 2018 found that the farther away someone was from a Level I or II trauma center when they were shot, the more likely they were to die. The worst area of the city was southern Queens, which relied on the single, overburdened Level I trauma center at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center. Residents of the borough had a gunshot fatality rate 30 percent higher than in the rest of the city.

“Over the past few years, there has been an increasing amount of gun violence throughout the city and in our community. As a Level I trauma center, we receive patients and the victims of those,” Jamaica Hospital spokesperson Michael Hinck told THE CITY. “We’re excited to be able to add this additional ER space for our community.”

Originally built more than 30 years ago to handle about 60,000 trips annually, Jamaica Hospital now receives more than 120,000 emergency room visits a year, not accounting for the nationwide pandemic spike in gun violence and emergency room visits. Last week, the hospital was granted a $150 million expansion and modernization by the state health department’s planning council. Funded by state grants announced in February, the plan will equip the “financially distressed safety-net hospital” with seven new trauma bays where there is currently one; 57 treatment bays where there are currently 27; and 22 new intensive care beds, in addition to the 26 currently there. The expansion plan now awaits the signature of acting state health commissioner James McDonald. 

Construction of the new 48,534-square-foot, three-story facility, currently a parking lot for physicians, is slated to begin in September and be completed by 2027. 

Even with increased capacity, the hospital will likely be the sole Level I trauma unit in the area. 

Dr. Marie Crandall, a University of Florida surgery professor who has conducted some of the leading research linking larger distances from trauma centers with increasing gunshot fatality, was one of more than a dozen researchers who reviewed our analysis in 2019. While it did not show definitive causation, she said at the time, “The linear correlation between distance from a trauma center and case fatality rates is obvious.”