NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Starting Tuesday, city hospitals have several new sites they can lean on to help take on the influx of patients overwhelming them during the coronavirus outbreak.
The U.S. naval ship USNS Comfort has been docked at Pier 90 for more than 24 hours, reports CBS2’s Lisa Rozner.
With 1,200 medical staff, operating rooms, X-ray machines and a dental suite, it is ready to start filling its nearly 1,000 bed, but only for urgent, non-COVID matters.
It will only take transports of patients from other hospitals who have tested negative for coronavirus.
There are more than 66,000 COVID-19 cases across the state, which has seen more than 1,200 deaths. Of those, 38,000 cases are in the city, where there are over 1,000 deaths.
CBS2 asked former Army Capt. Darrin Porcher, who has served at field hospitals at war, if he believes these federal facilities don’t have enough testing kits and infection control.
“These facilities are not equipped to deal with or contain a virus,” said Porcher. “They’re primarily there to support healthcare practitioners for minor surgeries or even major surgeries for things such as major car accidents.”
He also believes they can help with people recovering from gunshot wounds or stabbings.
Dr. Eric Wei, vice president of New York City Health and Hospitals, says the city’s public hospitals are desperate for help.
“Over the last two weeks it’s more than double normally coming in,” said Wei. “Now volume is down, but people coming in (are) in worse shape and need ICU. We need to look outside of our four walls.
Which patients are going to the non-COVID sites is being determined by the Healthcare Evacuation Coordination Center, a city- and state-supported call center in the Javits Center where hospitals can request transports.
Real Adm. John Mustin explains says that’s the only way an ambulance will be directed to come to the ship.
“We trust the screening process in effect at Javits Center so we can receive advanced notice,” he said.
It’s not clear what kind of non-COVID cases the ship will now treat. The Navy confirms it is not planning to treat cancer patients or deliver babies.
The same goes for the Javits field hospital although the city says its beds could hold patients who need to be kept for observation overnight.
Elsewhere in Manhattan, Central Park’s East Meadow has been transformed into an emergency field hospital that began treating patients Tuesday.
The Christian-based organization Samaritan’s Purse is bringing its own staff and 68 hospital beds, including 10 ICU beds.
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If filled to capacity with 3,000 beds, it would become the city’s largest hospital.
“FEMA has obligated more than $1.3 billion in federal support to the state of New York,” President Donald Trump said Monday night. “Work has begun on additional temporary hospital sites.”
On Monday, the USNS Comfort sailed into New York’s harbor. The Navy hospital ship has surgical rooms, a cat scan unit, X-ray machines and two oxygen-producing plants that are all manned by 1,200 staff members. The ship will not treat COVID-19 patients, rather other urgent cases to help free up space in hospitals.
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The home of the US Open in Flushing Meadows, Queens, will also be transformed into a field hospital.
The US Tennis Association says 350 beds are being added to an indoor training facility at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. For now, it appears it will only treat non-coronavirus patients.
The Louis Armstrong Stadium at the complex will also be used to prepare roughly 25,000 meals for patients, health care workers and more.
Outside the city, the Westchester County Center is being converted into another field hospital. Additional space in the parking lot is being used, as well.
Sources tell CBS2 patients will be treated inside the center, while space outside will house staff and other support functions.
More than 2,200 National Guardsmen have already been deployed in New York, and they’ll soon be getting help from a member of Congress – decorated combat veteran Max Rose, of Staten Island and South Brooklyn. He’ll join the Guardsmen in operations, building field hospitals.
“Of course it’s a new type of war, I mean, we’re fighting a virus, but … to defeat this enemy, we need tools at the VA’s disposal, the tools at FEMA’s disposal, the tools at HHS’s disposal, the tools at city agencies’ and state agencies’ disposal,” Rose told CBS2’s Dick Brennan.
Rose says if he has to go back for a Congressional vote, he will, but for now, there will be no politics.
City officials say hospitals need to be prepared to become entire intensive care units to treat coronavirus, so as the cases increase, so will the need for extra hospitals like this.