Elmhurst Hospital Adds Staff To Tackle Coronavirus Deluge

Maya Kaufman

This article originally appeared on the Queens Patch

ELMHURST, QUEENS — Elmhurst Hospital is adding staff and transferring patients in an effort to cope with a deluge of seriously ill coronavirus patients that has already pushed the hospital way over capacity, weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to peak in New York City.

Elmhurst, one of just two municipal hospitals in Queens, brought in 56 more workers and 40 additional ventilators Thursday treat an influx of coronavirus patients, Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a news conference. The hospital previously added several dozen staffers and several ventilators to its arsenal, according to City Council Member Francisco Moya.

Officials have resupplied the hospital four times over the last 10 days, de Blasio said.

"The folks at Elmhurst Hospital, the folks doing this noble work, need supplies and I am committed to getting you supplies," de Blasio said during a news conference Thursday. "If we have it, it will get to you."

The hospital also transferred more than two dozen patients to Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn, Dr. Mitchell Katz, CEO of the NYC Health + Hospitals system, said during a news briefing Wednesday. Elmhurst may soon relocate an additional 30 patients, though it's unclear whether they are all COVID-19 patients, according to Moya.

Some city officials worry those efforts won't be enough to handle the pandemic's peak, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo said could be just two weeks away.

Cases of the new coronavirus have already pushed Elmhurst Hospital to above 125-percent capacity, compared to its typical 80-percent capacity rate, Patch previously reported.

As of 9 a.m. Thursday, 54 of the hospital's 63 ventilators were in use, according to a source briefed on the hospital's inventory who requested anonymity to speak candidly about the conversation. Hospital officials told the source they expected to have enough ventilators for the next 10 days but are unsure what will happen beyond then.

The hospital was running three times as many ICU beds Wednesday as it normally does, according to de Blasio. Four people died at Elmhurst Hospital overnight Wednesday, according to Katz, the Health + Hospitals CEO.

"New York is the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States but ground zero is Elmhurst Hospital," Moya and City Council Member Carlina Rivera, who chairs the council's committee on hospitals, wrote in a letter Thursday to President Donald Trump requesting more hospital beds, ventilators and intensive care staff for Elmhurst Hospital.

"The longer these hospitals wait for resources, the more people will die in Queens," Moya and Rivera wrote. "For many, it’s already too late."

Elmhurst Hospital saw 13 deaths in a single 24-hour period, the city's hospital system announced in an emailed statement Wednesday, without specifying the exact timeframe.

"Elmhurst is at the center of this crisis, and it's the number one priority of our public hospital system right now," Health + Hospitals Deputy Press Secretary Stephanie Guzmán said in an emailed statement Wednesday.

A source who was briefed by a top Health + Hospitals official on the situation at Elmhurst Hospital had previously told Patch that 12 patients died overnight Monday, though a spokesperson disputed that number.

Queens had the most confirmed COVID-19 cases and the most deaths among the five boroughs as of Thursday morning, according to city health department data.

It also has the least hospital beds per capita: Queens has just nine hospitals to serve its 2.3 million residents; Brooklyn has 15 hospitals, and Manhattan has 20.

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