NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The city’s hospitals are running out of space for the surge in COVID-19 patients.
Thursday, the president pushed forward a plan to open up more hospital beds for positive cases, but health care workers still face a mounting pressure.
“I things that I see in the ER are scary. I’m a little scared myself,” emergency physician Dr. Matthew Bai said.
Bai gave CBS2’s Ali Bauman a glimpse of his new reality at Mount Sinai Queens.
“You can see all the rooms are filled. Usually these halls are very neat and empty,” he said.
“It’s challenging. It’s draining. We see nurses crying a lot,” said Hiram Torres, vice president of operations at BronxCare Health System. “We’re using all available space in the hospital.”
But to cover all that spaces, he says the Bronx hospital desperately needs more doctors and nurses.
They’ve already moved more than 100 administrative employees to do jobs like deliver meals to patients.
“Our own staff are getting sick. We’re having to use contract labor to come in and help where they can, and even that contract labor gets sick,” Torres said.
Mount Sinai has started sending patients to Central Park medical tents.
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Meanwhile, the USNS Comfort is treating non-COVID patients.
Initially, the federal government said the 2,500-bed facility at the Javits Center would do the same, but the White House reversed course Thursday.
“We’re going to be converting that to a COVID-19 hospital ,” President Donald Trump said.
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) April 2, 2020
“The Javits and Comfort can do whatever the military allows them to,” Cuomo said. “Understand on the Comfort, they don’t want to bring in COVID patients, because that’s an entire ship. How do you disinfect the ship afterwards, and that’s a complicated situation.”
Capt. Patrick Amersbach, the commanding officer of the USNS Comfort, said the ship got its first patient at New York harbor on Wednesday.
Patients who had surgeries for everything from cancer to heart surgery at a hospital who might need aftercare or observation, or an emergency gunshot victim, are the types of patients.
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But he described the situation as adaptable.
“We are only accepting non-COVID-19 patients, if that changes then we will change that,” said Amersbach. “We’ve treated three patients, thus far we work diligently with hospitals. We were brought into New York City as quickly as possible.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio says more than 2,000 beds and 700 ICU beds will be added to the city’s public hospitals by next month.
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On Thursday, Montefiore Hospital nurses protested for more gear, like masks and gowns. Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the state will now review each hospital’s inventory and disperse supplies accordingly.
“Every day when I go to work, I feel like a sheep going to slaughter,” one nurse said.
With so many 911 calls, city ambulance crews are changing how they treat cardiac arrest patients. If first responders are not able to revive a patient on scene, they’re now directed to pronounce the person dead instead of taking them to the hospital.
“This is a wartime mentality,” said Anthony Almojera, vice president of the EMS Officers Union.
On the front lines, doctors and nurses know the worst is yet to come.