Crain’s New York Business, in partnership with Empire BlueCross BlueShield, honored 50 health heroes as part of the 2020 Whole Health Heroes Awards.
Among this year’s honorees was Oren Barzilay, President of the FDNY Emergency Medical Service (EMS) union and one of New York’s most widely recognized advocates for front-line medical first responders throughout the COVID-19 outbreak.
Barzilay was among a select group of New York region leaders from the healthcare, essential worker and business sectors, who were recognized for leadership to ensure the safety and wellness of all New Yorkers during the pandemic.
From the start of the pandemic, more than 4,000 members in Barzilay’s union have been on the front lines. Already the busiest first responder group in America, managing more than 1.5 million annual medical emergencies, EMS workers stepped up to handle call volumes that soared 200%, as Coronavirus gripped New York City.
All of this took place as EMS workers faced unimaginable conditions, including staff shortages, a lack of workplace PPE and an increased risk of catching COVID-19—medical studies now show that FDNY members were 15x more likely to contract COVID-19 and FDNY EMS members 5 times more likely than FDNY firefighters to contract the virus.
Thanks to Barzilay’s staunch advocacy and leadership, New York, and the rest of the nation, were able to gain a better insight of the overwhelming medical crisis and address the crisis confronting the first responders he advocates for.
“It is no secret that being a member of the FDNT EMS is a very dangerous and stressful job, and this award is about the women and men of EMS who bravely held our city together on the frontlines, answering tens of thousands of calls for urgent help throughout the pandemic,” said Barzilay. “Our members slept in cars, worked round the clock shifts and withstood countless stressful situations to administer media care when there was little light at the end of the tunnel in New York City. Thank you to our great FDNY EMS workforce; this city is stronger specifically because of your dedication and sacrifices.”
Other recipients of the 2020 Whole Health Heroes Distinction included Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling, Michelin-starred Chef Daniel Boulud and leading physicians at Mount Sinai, New York Presbyterian and other leading medical facilities, whose incredible acts of heroism helped countless lives during the coronavirus pandemic.