New York, Mar 26 (efe-epa).- Hospitals in New York City, which has become the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, are starting to show signs of being overwhelmed, with significant shortfalls of equipment and supplies amid an avalanche of seriously ill patients in recent days.
This is what doctors and other healthcare workers are telling local media and posting on the social networks with warnings to the authorities, who admit that the Big Apple is not prepared to deal with the sheer numbers of patients who are arriving at medical centers even while authorities scramble to set up more hospital beds and find more equipment and personnel.
“It’s apocalyptic,” Dr. Ashley Bray, with Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, told The New York Times, adding that in the 24 hours between Tuesday and Wednesday her facility registered 13 deaths from Covid-19 pneumonia, which the coronavirus causes.
Given the worsening situation, a refrigerated truck has been parked beside the hospital in which to store bodies, and patients with other health problems are being transferred to different medical centers so that Elmhurst can focus exclusively on the coronavirus.
The hospital, located in an area with many low-income Latino and other immigrants, is one of those most heavily affected in New York, and in recent days it has been the site of long lines of people thinking they might be infected with the coronavirus and waiting, sometimes all day, to get tested for it.
According to doctors consulted by The Times, the first signs of the virus began appearing in New York in early March with an increase in the number of patients with flu-like symptoms, but before the city was alerted to the presence of the coronavirus, which originated in China in December.
At that time, coronavirus tests took much longer, but ultimately many of those tests proved to be positive and confirmed that patients were suffering from Covid-19.
Over time, the hospital emergency room began filling up, often with more than 200 people waiting for medical attention and forcing many to wait outside before they could be allowed in. More and more often, patients began arriving with serious symptoms and authorities began recommending that everyone with milder syptoms try to recover at home.
On several occasions, Elmhurst has been on the verge of not having enough respirators, and it has been relying on equipment from other medical centers to take the overflow, employees here have been saying.
Rikki Lane, one of the doctors at the hospital, told The Times that this is just “the first wave of this tsunami.”
The situation is not much better at other medical centers like Brooklyn Hospital Center, where more than 40 percent of the patients – more than two-thirds of them in critical condition – are confirmed or suspected Covid-19 cases and several workers also have become infected.
“We’re in disaster mode,” hospital president Gary G. Terrinoni told the daily, demanding more help from the federal government.
New York-Presbyterian Hospital, one of the city’s largest hospital networks, has begun rigging up single respirators to treat several patients at a time due to the scarcity of such equipment.
The lack of medical equipment and supplies on Thursday captured the cover of the New York Post, which with the headline “Treated like trash” showed a photo of nurses at Mt. Sinai West wearing plastic trash bags to protect themselves from the virus because they don’t have enough medical gowns.
The nurses, who posted the image on the social networks, said in their messages that they don’t have any more facemasks and are reusing some that normally are used once and then discarded.
According to the latest official figures, New York state has 37,258 confirmed cases of coronavirus, most of them in New York City. At least 385 people have died as a result of the virus, 100 of them in the past 24 hours.
Meanwhile, at his daily coronavirus press conference on Thursday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that the $2 trillion economic stimulus bill passed this week by the Senate to provide relief to the public and companies during the crisis will help unemployment insurance and small businesses but will do nothing to aid state or local governments.
The governor said that what is occurring is a “double whammy” for any state or municipal government, namely a loss of revenue as fewer taxes get paid, businesses close and people lose their jobs combined with an increase in expenses due to the battle against the virus.
Cuomo said that New York state estimates it will lose between $10 billion and $15 billion in revenue, and although it will receive $5 billion in federal funding in the stimulus bill those funds are reserved for expenses related to Covid-19.
“The congressional action, in my opinion, simply failed to address the governmental need,” he said. “I’m disappointed. I find it irresponsible. I find it reckless.”