As Long Island Jewish Forest Hills-Northwell Health nears releasing its 1,000th coronavirus patient, Executive Director Susan Browning spoke to Community Board 6 about the hospital’s response to the COVID crisis.
Even with emergency response and robust communication, “COVID continues to be truly unlike anything we could have anticipated,” she said at last Wednesday’s virtual board meeting.
Browning said LIJ Forest Hills is moving to normal operations with the anticipation that it’s soon to begin elective surgeries again. There are two recovery areas so that a COVID patient will recover in a different place from others. And she said the hospital has an adequate supply of personal protective equipment.
Browning said from April 2019 to April 2020 there has been a 400 percent increase in prehospital cardiac arrests, the result of a huge increase in morbidity and mortality not caused by the coronavirus.
“And that is because people are indeed afraid to access care, so we want to assure you that if you need care we are here and it is a safe environment and you can come into the hospital,” she said.
Browning said patients with COVID can be discharged if they have passed the acute phase.
“Part of the obligation for us to discharge a patient is not only that they be clinically ready but that we have a safe discharge plan,” she said, adding that the plan includes educating the patient and having him or her socially distance.
The first patient with the virus arrived in the first days of March. By April 7 there were 3,500 across the system’s 23 hospitals. LIJ Forest Hills had about 270.
“To put this into perspective, normally we operate, including our maternity beds, 220 adult beds in the hospital with 197 of those being for medical surgical patients,” Browning said.
The hospital went from having a handful of patients on ventilators to having 50. Five areas in the facility were opened for in-patient care, including a conference room, as it looked to increase capacity.
The emergency department would usually see 150 patients on a given day, with Browning saying the number is higher in the winter and lower in the summer because of flu season.
“We were up to a height of 249 patients on any given day,” she said.
About 20 percent of the normal 150 would be admitted but that figure rose to about 40 percent during the height of the crisis.
“These were very, very sick patients,” Browning said.
Northwell hospitals have discharged more than 10,000 COVID-positive patients, according to Browning.