Drive around Maimonides Hospital now and you'll see a refrigerated trailer. It would be a backup morgue in case the one inside gets too full.


Field tents have sprouted around the emergency room — some for supplies and eventually patients. One screens all visitors to the ER.


Inside, spaces where you wouldn't normally find hospital beds are lined with them.

The chair of the emergency medicine department says all this is part of their worst-case scenario planning for a surge of COVID-19 patients. It follows Gov. Andrew Cuomo's directive that all hospitals increase their capacity by at least 50 percent. Maimonides is aiming for 200 percent.

“Women are still giving birth, people are still having accidents, we still have to provide trauma care. We still need to be able to care for heart attacks, but the majority of our in-patient space have been given over to care for patients suffering from COVID,” Dr. John Marshall said. “Our goal is to get to a point of having more than 1,400 beds for patients.”

With some doctors already infected but recovering, Marshall is repeating the advice he gave to medical staff even before the pandemic hit: get your affairs in order.

The reality is, as someone married with a family even outside of a pandemic crisis, it would be irresponsible of me not to have a will,” he said. “There is some evidence out there that we're more likely to actually contract the disease outside the hospital interacting with other folks than inside the hospital.”

Full disclosure: my husband works in the ER at Maimonides, and on his time off he's been calling in favors, picking up supplies donated from construction companies and painters, even a chef who baked goods so that ER staff would have something to eat.

And Marshall says with beds, ventilators, and other equipment on order and, yes, getting delivered — and with everyday people stepping up too — they're not worried yet they'll run out of what they need.

“We've been fortunate in that we've been able to stay ahead of the curve, we don’t have a PPE shortage at this point,” Marshall said. “But that's partially because we've been working with state and federal authorities and New York City agencies to help ensure that we have access to that supply chain.”

He also said Maimonides and other hospitals — private and public — have daily discussions about the availability of supplies and best practices; discussions that soon will be coordinated with a command center organized by the Cuomo Administration as the health care community prepares to meet this deepening crisis head on.



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