Elmhurst Hospital faces equipment shortages
by Benjamin Fang
Apr 01, 2020 | 3087 views | 0 0 comments | 158 158 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Councilman Francisco Moya and Jonathan Krane deliver masks to Elmhurst Hospital.
Councilman Francisco Moya and Jonathan Krane deliver masks to Elmhurst Hospital.
After suffering 13 COVID-19 deaths in a 24-hour span last week, Elmhurst Hospital has become the epicenter of the growing novel coronavirus outbreak in New York City.

To accommodate the influx of patients, the de Blasio administration directed more resources to the hospital in the last two weeks. Last Friday, the hospital received 8,000 N-95 masks, 18,000 head covers, and 2,000 booties.

The previous week, the facility received 13,000 N-95 masks, 221,000 surgical gloves, 33,000 face masks, 17,500 gowns and 1,665 face shields. The city also re-supplied the hospital’s ventilators four times in the last 10 days, and distributed 40 additional ventilators.

City Hall announced that 64 clinicians, including registered nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and physicians, were added to the staff. NYC Health+Hospitals redeployed 45 ambulatory staff from other areas, and brought on 105 new nurses and 56 new staff members.

On WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Elmhurst Hospital serves a large community with few other options. He underscored the need to add more health care workers to give current doctors and nurses a break.

“They have been going to crazy hours,” he said. “They’re seeing a lot of death.”

A day after the 13 deaths last week, Dr. Mitchell Katz, president and CEO of the NYC Health+Hospitals system, reported the hospital had four deaths in the next 24 hours.

“I think all hospitals that are having a lot of patients on ventilators are experiencing a high number of deaths,” he said.

Despite the surge in supplies, local elected officials still sounded the alarm for more help. On Friday, congresswomen Grace Meng and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez penned a letter to President Donald Trump calling on him to prioritize the transfer of personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators from the national stockpile to Elmhurst.

The shortage of PPEs, the federal lawmakers wrote, jeopardizes the health and welfare of health care workers and their patients.

“One less ventilator is one less life that had the hope of being saved,” they wrote. “The staggering numbers of critical patients at Elmhurst Hospital is compounded with the shortage of ventilators.

“We entreat you to promptly deploy immediate necessary resources to decrease the intensity and mitigate long-term harm of COVID-19,” they added. “Any delays in the procurement of PPE would significantly hamper our health care system’s ability to respond to this crisis.”

On the local level, City Council members Francisco Moya and Carlina Rivera also sent a letter to Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar requesting hospital beds, ventilators and intensive care staff for Elmhurst Hospital, which they said has been hardest hit in the city.

They called the conditions at the hospital “grave.” The legislators noted that though Queens has a population of 2.3 million residents, the borough has the fewest hospital beds per capita of all the boroughs.

Queens has 1.66 beds per 1,000 people, while Manhattan has 5.67 beds per 1,000 people. The borough only has two municipal hospitals, while Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx each have three.

“Elmhurst and Queens hospitals are besieged by this disease,” they wrote.

Moya and Rivera said patients are reportedly dying in the emergency room while waiting for beds. Residents are lining up around the block, standing inside barriers waiting to be tested.

“The longer these hospitals wait for resources, the more people will die in Queens,” they added. “For many, it’s already too late.”

Moya, who was born at Elmhurst Hospital and later worked there, joined Jonathan Krane, founding partner of Queensboro FC, last Monday to donate 1,000 surgical masks to the site.

Israel Rocha, the hospital’s CEO, reached out to the councilman to request help with the shortage of PPEs. Krane, the CEO of KraneShares, a New York-based asset management firm, then reached out to his business contacts to secure the facemasks.

In response to the growth in COVID-19 cases at the hospital, local officials continued to urge all residents to stay at home and practice good hygiene habits to flatten the curve of the virus.

“Frontline workers and medical professionals are moving mountains around the clock with extraordinary acts of heroism, using all tools and resources available to save each and every single life,” said Acting Borough President Sharon Lee. “Queens is deeply grateful.

“Our ability to prevent as many deaths as possible hinges upon our staying ahead of the curve,” she added. “This is humanity’s shared war against a global pandemic.”
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