In early April, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo compared a jump in 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases on Long Island to a “fire spreading,” noting that the region had six out of the state’s eight “hot spots,” that is, highest number of coronavirus cases. NYU Winthrop Hospital, was one of those six hot spots—a hot spot in the hottest state in the United States in terms of the pandemic. The hospital, which was the first on Long Island to receive a COVID-19 case on March 6, 2020, is now a “poster hospital” for what can be accomplished in fighting this viral enemy.
On April 21, the hospital successfully discharged its 750th patient who recovered from COVID-19—a significant accomplishment for a hospital operating with only 511 beds when the first patient came through its emergency department. NYU Winthrop Hospital says that its example of success can give hope to other hospitals fighting COVID-19 throughout America.
“In just six weeks, we went from ground zero on Long Island in fighting this pandemic, to sending home more COVID-19 patients with regained health than we had beds in the hospital,” says Joseph J. Greco, MD, chief of hospital operations at NYU Winthrop Hospital. “Our success is a testament to what incredibly dedicated healthcare workers can achieve, with the help of medical technologies, and our staff knows that they have colleagues throughout the country that can do the same. We’re rooting for all of those hospitals and their staffs.”
Coming this far through the hot zone has not been without incredible challenges. Like all Long Island hospitals, NYU Winthrop Hospital was asked to considerably expand its capacity for treating patients with COVID-19 as the pandemic escalated in New York. In a matter of days, the hospital converted conference space, which usually hosts meetings and yoga classes, into a COVID-19 acute intensive care unit (ICU). Among other adaptations, the hospital also turned its library into a COVID-19 staff support area, erected emergency department tents to help manage the influx of patients presenting with respiratory symptoms, and created external changing stations for medical staff so they do not have to wear hospital clothing home.
The hospital staff, many of whom worked through traumas like 9/11, have been working overtime and tirelessly. And many of them are working out of their usual roles, including nurses from different units now lending support in COVID-19 units. Some staff contracted COVID-19 themselves, like Scott L. Schubach, MD, chair of cardiothoracic surgery at NYU Winthrop Hospital. “I saw firsthand how our hospital staff was talking to patients and handling patients,” he says. “Though they were overwhelmed, the staff did not compromise their attitudes, their ethics, or their compassion in caring for patients.”
“It’s our hope that we will soon be through the worst of this pandemic in New York,” adds Dr. Greco, “but we will not let our guard down, as we continue to have hundreds of families relying on us to see their loved ones exit—in a healthier state—through our hospital doors.” The halls of the hospital resonate with staff cheering and clapping every time this happens, Dr. Greco says.