Chief Executive Officer of Foundation for Sustainable Community Development Initiative, Mr George Onuorah (4th left); New York Assembly lawmaker, Jeffrion Aubry (6th left), and others at the event. Photo: Harrison Arubu/NAN

A Nigerian, Mr George Onuorah has led a group of humanitarians to visit the Elmhurst Hospital Centre (EHC) in New York, the epicentre of the Coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.

Their mission was to thank frontline healthcare workers there for their courage, hard work and sacrifice in the battle against a disease that had shaken the powerful country to its core.

Acting under the aegis of the Foundation for Sustainable Community Development Initiative (FSCDI) a nonprofit organisation, headed by Onuorah, and the Rotary Club of New York, the visitors delivered free lunch to their hosts.

EHC, also known as NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst, is a 545-bed public hospital serving about one million residents in Elmhurst, Queens, described as the most ethnically diverse community in the U.S.

Located in a community hard hit by the disease, the hospital had to increase its Intensive Care Unit’s (ICU) capacity by 500 per cent as hundreds of COVID-19 patients besieged it for help under what officials described as “apocalyptic convictions”.

In his remarks, Onuorah, who is the Chief Executive Officer of FSCDI, expressed the organisation’s appreciation to the frontline workers for labouring under difficult circumstances to battle the disease.

“We are here to say thank you to the doctors, nurses, social workers and other healthcare professionals who went above and beyond in these challenging times to make things better for our community,” he said.

He stated that the humanitarian spirit exhibited by the healthcare workers was in line with FSCDI’s vision and philosophy of making the world a better place.

Speaking on behalf of the healthcare professionals, Dr Joseph Masci, the Chairman of Global Health at Elmhurst, said the Coronavirus pandemic was the worst public health crisis he had seen in his 37 years of stay in the community.

Masci said the medical staff members of the hospital truly deserved credit for risking their lives to deal with the difficult situation with “courage, humanity and professionalism”.

As of Friday, there were no fewer than 1,450,900 COVID-19 cases and 87,400 deaths in the U.S., with New York as the country’s epicentre, accounting for 350,951 of the infections and 27,755 fatalities.

EHC is said to be in the middle of the unprecedented public health crisis, and witnessed several Coronavirus-related deaths, as many as 13 within 24 hours on March 25.

Mr Jeffrion Aubry, the lawmaker representing Elmhurst in the New York State Assembly, thanked FSCDI and Rotary for the gesture and lauded the hard work and dedication of the hospital’s leadership and staff members.

“This community has been at the centre of the epidemic. Unfortunately, we have lost many good people that we all knew and loved, members of this hospital community as well as members of our community who share this burden.

“One of the things, it seems, is that even in the worst of times, we find the best of people, and that is what we are here to celebrate today.

“We have found the best of people here in Elmhurst who have done their jobs heroically in difficult and untenable circumstances,” Aubry said.

As a token of his appreciation, the lawmaker presented 100 Uber gift cards to the workers for use as a form of payment for Uber rides and food ordered on UberEats.

Founded two years ago, FSCDI’s mission is to empower communities on local and international levels, specifically in Africa, by helping them to engage in sustainable socio-economic activities.