Hospitals and their lines of defense 1

Warnings and precautions pertaining to COVID-19 are posted outside Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Forest Hills Medical Center, which Chief of Infectious Diseases Dr. Miriam Smith says is preparing for a spike in patients.

While reports of hospitals running out of protective gear and doctors re-using protective gear run rampant across the country, Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Forest Hills Medical Center is stocked and prepared — for now.

“The system spent a lot of money prior to this surge in order to gain supplies,” said Chief of Infectious Disease Dr. Miriam Smith. “The concern is the high demand and we continue to order more in anticipation that the need will continue to increase.”

Smith said that the hospital has been asking its doctors to sanitize and reuse their N-95 masks due to the high demand — the masks, according to manufacturer and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, can be used numerous times until they become soiled or contaminated. At that point, Smith said, the hospital dips into its stock and replaces the materials.

“This is a supply that we certainly are in need of going forward. Not yet,” she said.

Due to the high demand of materials and personal protective gear, Gov. Cuomo announced on March 24 that 169,000 N-95 masks, 430,850 surgical masks, 176,750 gloves, 72,561 gowns and 39,364 face shields will be dispersed to medical centers and hospitals throughout New York City.

When it comes to testing patients for COVID-19, Smith said Long Island Jewish has tested all its inpatients who show symptoms of the virus and have caused suspicion among the staff. Those who show mild symptoms or are asymptomatic are not given preference in testing because of the limited number of testing kits, as per the hospital’s recommendation.

Smith couldn’t place a specific count on the number of beds Long Island Jewish has designated to COVID-19 patients, but she stated that the number will soon be increased.

“We are anticipating an increase in a number of patients, as other metro hospitals are doing ... We’re looking at areas to open up that have not been traditionally outpatient area,” Smith said, referencing spaces within the hospital itself as well as throughout the city, such as the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, in Manhattan, which is being transformed into a gigantic hospital.

Despite her confidence in her hospital’s ability to tackle the situation as it evolves, Smith reminds everyone that the first line of defense against the coronavirus is with the individual. “This shelter in place should be adhered to. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of hand washing,” she stated.

In Bayside, St. Mary’s Hospital for Children is taking similar precautions and preparations, but has begun screening individuals at the front lobby for travel history, symptom examination and temperature evaluation.

“We have a longstanding experience and expertise in infection control practices,” said CEO and President Dr. Eddie Simpser in a March 24 Facebook video announcement. The facility treats children with “complex medical problems,” such as underlying lung and heart disease, complications with prematurity, neurological disorders and more “that puts them at a much higher risk than an otherwise healthy child” when infected with COVID-19.

“We’re very concerned with them because we see how they react to other viral illnesses ... where they often get very sick and end up in pediatric intensive care units so our concern with COVID-19 is that it will be the same,” said Simsper. “These are trying times, but we will get through this together.”