More patients, fewer workers: Omicron pushes New York hospitals to the brink


One Brooklyn Health and other hospital systems have also sought help from state officials. Governor Kathy Hochul, who declared a health emergency in late November, has allowed nursing students and outside doctors to help during the current wave. The state has also deployed 120 members of the National Guard to nursing homes and directed federal teams to hospitals in the upstate facing their own crises.

The state has not sent more staff to lower-state hospitals, Raske said.

State Department of Health spokesperson Jill Montag did not dispute this, but said the state is helping hospitals coordinate their efforts and has secured 50 ambulance teams for New York from the Federal Emergency Management Agency; 25 are due to arrive on Saturday.

The problem was compounded for community hospitals by the way the Omicron wave spread, starting in the wealthier parts of Manhattan and then moving to low-income neighborhoods that depend on safety net hospitals. This week, Covid positivity rates exceeded 40% in the southern Bronx and parts of Brooklyn and Queens. About 37,000 new cases per day are reported on average across the city.

Long-standing disparities in health care mean that patients in poor areas also arrive at hospitals with more pre-existing conditions, and vaccination rates in these areas tend to be lower, contributing to a decline. more serious illness. In the Brooklyn zip code where Brookdale is located, about 2,500 people tested positive for the virus last week, with a 43% positivity rate.

Not all safety net hospitals say they are being pushed to the limit. The area around St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx had nearly the city’s highest test positivity rate this week, over 46%. But officials said they were facing the higher volume, even with 7-9% of the workforce with Covid-19 or caring for sick relatives.

Not all of the hospital’s intensive care beds are full, and of the 30 patients currently in intensive care in Saint-Barnabé, only 10 have Covid-19, said Dr Edward Telzak, chief of internal medicine. “Covid-19 does not overwhelm us,” he added.

It’s different at the pediatric emergency room at Montefiore Hospital, a large nonprofit hospital in the Bronx. Julian Grant, a registered nurse, said the small emergency room was often filled with 80 patients, with as few as two nurses to help them.

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