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13 People Die in One Day at Same New York Hospital

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13 People Die in One Day at Same New York Hospital

2020-03-27 15:50:02

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Elmhurst Hospital Center (Image source: Tdorante10 via Wikimedia Commons)

There are numerous feelings that come to the surface when dealing with the facts of the coronavirus pandemic, and none of them are good. But the news that one hospital in New York lost 13 patients in just 24 hours to COVID-19, and the stories that go along with the onslaught of cases at Elmhurst Hospital Center, is beyond heartbreaking.

"A parking lot of stretchers," is how Dr. Colleen Smith, an emergency care physician, described an area of the hospital where COVID-19 patients are being treated.  

A 545-bed public hospital in Queens, Elmhurst has started transferring patients not suffering from the coronavirus to other area hospitals as it makes the transition to dedicating itself only to treating COVID-19 patients. Doctors and nurses are trying to get through the pandemic with only a few dozen ventilators.

The code "Team 700" comes over the loudspeaker several times in just one shift. This is the code for a patient who is near death. Some of those patients to have died have done so while in the E.R., waiting for a bed. 

A refrigerated truck is parked outside the hospital as a makeshift morgue. "It's apocalyptic," said Dr. Nancy Bray, a general medicine resident.

One nurse, who has worked at Elmhurst for over a decade, spoke to ABC News about the hospital, which is seen as "the center of the crisis." "I've never seen anything like this," she uttered. She described the E.R. as "absolute chaos" and noted that the "facility is overwhelmed." 

Within several hours on Tuesday, Bray performed chest compressions on a woman in her 80s, a man in his 60s, and a 38-year-old. The third patient reminded her of her fiancé. Each of the three being treated had tested positive for the coronavirus and all went into cardiac arrest. All later died.

Yet, while we are being told this disease mostly affects the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, sources at the hospital said it is the relatively young and seemingly healthy who have been the most vulnerable. 

Another emergency care physician spoke of the hospital nearly running out of oxygen at one point. He joined the chorus in pleading for "ventilators, critical care staff, and space."

"Elmhurst is at the center of this crisis, and it's the number-one priority of our public hospital system right now," said the city's public hospital system's statement. "The front line staff are going above and beyond in this crisis, and we continue surging supplies and personnel to this critical facility to keep pace with the crisis." 

All 1,800 of the city's ICU beds were expected to be full by Friday, according to a Federal Emergency Management Agency briefing. Patients could end up staying for weeks, and that would limit the space for new arrivals.

New York City is beginning to reach the point of having an overwhelmed health care system, just like that of China, Italy, and Spain. More than 3,922 coronavirus patients have been hospitalized in the city. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo offered a glimmer of hope on Wednesday, noting that social distancing was beginning to slow the growth of hospitalizations throughout the state. Hospitalizations were down from estimations this week. The number has gone from doubling every two days to doubling every four days.

Cuomo called the change in number "almost too good to be true." 

Mayor Bill de Blasio chimed in from Twitter. "Let me be blunt about this crisis: it won't be better by Easter," he wrote, referring to Donald Trump's desire to open the country up again within a few weeks to help the economy. "We can't let our guard down and cling to false hope. April will be tougher than March, and May will be even tougher."

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