Getting patients from overwhelmed hospitals to temporary medical facilities comes with challenges

Posted at 7:17 PM, Apr 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-03 19:17:30-04

NEW YORK CITY — Throughout New York City and its suburbs, a significant, and growing number of hospitals, such as Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, are filled to capacity.

Brick and mortar hospitals across the region have been forced to almost exclusively focus on coronavirus patients. Nine temporary hospitals are being set up in the downstate area, and in the case of the Jacob Javits Center, 2,500 beds are already set up, and are ready to serve patients.

Originally, the Javits facility was intended to handle non-COVID-19 patients. That is now changing.

"We don't have non-covid people to any great extent," said Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday morning about the situation. "So we wanted to convert Javits from non-COVID to COVID."

The governor said that with President Donald Trump's permission, U.S. Army and National Guard medical professionals are converting the facility to treat coronavirus patients.

Getting those patients to temporary medical facilities like the Javits Center from the most overwhelmed hospitals, called "hotspots" by emergency managers, is a challenge.

"The hotspots, we now track on a nightly basis," Cuomo said at Friday's morning briefing.

The state and city are keeping tabs on what different hospitals' overcrowding issues are through a command center set up at the Jacob Javits Center for that purpose.

It's been ramping up gradually, according to comments made this week by New York City's emergency management commissioner, Deanne Criswell.

The command center is gearing up for the worst of the crisis, which is expected later this month.

Another key aspect of the situation is the USNS Comfort. The U.S. Navy hospital ship was supposed to provide relief with its 1,000 beds. However, it only takes in non-covid patients, and in order for a patient to be declared non-covid, they have to be tested at the very hospitals that are already swamped.

The governor said that he wants that situation to change, but doesn't know if it can.

"The Navy's position is they don't want to put COVID people on the ship," said Cuomo, "because it would be too difficult to disinfect the ship."