March 30, 2020 By Allie Griffin
The City has added 169 contract nurses to Elmhurst Hospital — dubbed the “epicenter of the epicenter” of the coronavirus pandemic — in order to assist existing staff overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.
The contract nurses are a combination of registered nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and physicians. They are part of 500 nurses who were added throughout the city’s public hospitals last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Sunday.
The public hospital system, NYC Health + Hospitals, will add an additional 500 nurses to its hospitals this week as well, de Blasio said.
“Elmhurst and our NYC Health + Hospital system are at the center of this epidemic,” de Blasio said. “We’re in a state of war, but we cannot go to battle without ammunition. To those who are on the frontlines: your City is behind you, and more help is on the way.”
In addition, 45 clinicians have been reassigned from outpatient to inpatient for additional reinforcement at Elmhurst.
The hospital also received 8,000 N95 masks, 18,000 head covers, and 2,000 medical booties this week and the City has re-supplied Elmhurst’s number of ventilators four times in the last 10 days and distributed an additional 55 ventilators.
Last week, Council Member Francisco Moya, who was born at Elmhurst Hospital and now represents the neighborhood, sent a desperate plea to President Donald Trump to send more resources to the hospital.
“As you know, New York is the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States but ground zero is Elmhurst Hospital,” he wrote. “It is currently operating well beyond capacity.”
Moya said Elmhurst Hospital doctors describe the scenes there in apocalyptic terms and speak with desperation in their voices.
“Patients are reportedly dying in the emergency room still waiting for a bed,” he wrote to Trump. “Residents line the block, standing inside barricades and in the rain waiting to get tested.”
On Sunday, the images of body bags at Elmhurst Hospital appeared to resonate with the president, who grew up in Queens.
“I’ve been watching that for the last week on television body bags all over in hallways,” Trump said at a press briefing. “I have been watching them bring in trailer trucks, freezer trucks — they are freezer trucks because they can’t handle the bodies, there are so many of them.”
In just a 24-hour span last week, the hospital lost 13 patients to the novel coronavirus.
“This is essentially in my community in Queens — Queens, New York,” Trump added. “I have seen things I’ve never seen before. I mean, I’ve seen them, but I’ve seen them on television in faraway lands.”
The images struck home with Trump, who announced that the national social distancing guidelines will be extended through April 30. It was a drastic shift from last week when he claimed that he would reopen the country’s businesses and bring workers back out of their homes.
“These are trucks that are as long as the Rose Garden and they are pulling up to take out bodies, and you look inside and you see the black body bags,” Trump said. “You say, ‘What’s in there? It’s Elmhurst Hospital, must be supplies.’ It’s not supplies; it’s people.”
As of this Monday evening, more than 300 Queens residents had died from the coronavirus. The World’s Borough has the highest death toll in New York City, where 914 residents have died citywide.