NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — As hospital admissions continue to decrease, medical professionals are preparing for a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, they want you to know they’re still open for business for non-COVID-19-related issues.
CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas was recently granted exclusive access to Jacobi Medical Center to take a look.
The Emergency Department at Jacobi has been eerily quiet, with room after room empty due to patient volume plummeting much lower than before the virus hit.
“It says to me that there’s still a long way to go with the fear and trust,” said Eric Wei, the vice president of New York City Health + Hospitals.
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Jacobi has discharged more than 700 COVID-19 patients.
While data shows the Pelham/Throggs Neck section of the Bronx has been hard hit, there has also been a spike across the city of those who have died from non-COVID-19 illnesses, raising fears that already-vulnerable residents are not seeking necessary treatment.
“We want to make sure if you’re having chest pain or stroke symptoms, abdominal pain, we want to take care of you,” said Dr. Jeremy Sperling, the chairman of Jacobi’s Department of Emergency Medicine.
Cline-Thomas was given exclusive access as Dr. Sperling and Dr. Wei were joined by a team tasked with redesigning spaces to better isolate COVID-19 patients — called “hot zones” — and treat those with unrelated issues in other areas — called “cold zones.”
“We know we can’t just pretend that the past three or four months didn’t happen and go back to normal operations from December 2019,” Wei said.
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A former waiting room transformed to treat non-critical COVID patients will be upgraded, a new urgent care facility is under construction, and video conferencing will be more widely used within in the hospital. They are all updates that need to be completed immediately.
“You push a button, my face shows up without PPE on. I can talk to the patient normally. They can hear me clearer and we’re both kind of socially distanced and protected,” Wei said.
Tents used be used to treat COVID patients, but they currently sit disinfected and empty. That said, they’re still available in preparation for a possible surge of the disease in the fall or the winter, Cline-Thomas reported.
If it happens, the next outbreak will coincide with flu season, further complicating the response.
“Every emergency department around the city is planning on how to take care of everyone who comes in,” Sperling said.
For now, the medical staff is catching its breath as it continues to process the impact of the last few months.
While also bracing for the next wave to hit.