BROOKLYN, N.Y. - The changes at the Kings County Hospital Emergency Department are impossible to miss: A tent outside houses testing for the coronavirus, markers on the floor stress the need for social distancing and Plexiglass protects intake nurses screening patients.
Those with COVID-like symptoms are immediately sent to an area they call the Hot Zone. Others, to the non-COVID room.
There is no more waiting to see a doctor.
“They come in, right away they get triaged, they are placed in a care area to be seen by the doctor, so we don’t send them outside to wait for any extended period of time,” said Diahann Singh, Director of Nursing for Kong’s County’s Emergency Department.
The hospital, like others in the city, is returning to normal operations, but with one eye kept firmly on the coronavirus threat. That means triage nurses in full personal protective equipment even when helping someone with a non-COVID complaint to protect against asymptomatic spread.
“Our ED nurse has on her N95 mask, face shield, she has on a gown, which is waterproof, and her head is covered,” Singh said.
More Plexiglass shields nursing stations, PPE is stored by isolation rooms, and tape marks where the equipment should be put on and taken off.
Patients may see people dressed like Dr. Rob Gore, a physician in the critical care unit.
He's wearing a battery-powered respirator that delivers purified air directly into his mask. It's on his entire shift.
“It is easier, if a patient sees your face and they understand eye contact and will make them feel a little more comfortable,” Gore said.
The goal, says Dr. Rajesh Verma, chief of emergency medicine, is to protect the health of the providers - because If they feel safe they will provide better care.
“They won’t hesitate to go into a room to talk to a patient, the patient will feel much better that they are at not being treated as a second class patient because people don’t want to come in and talk to them,” Verma said.
Dr. Verma says the hospital’s patient volume is now around 25 percent of normal.
“The majority of the hesitancy of coming to the ED is during the surge, no one wanted to come here. So once that clears, and people realize it is safe to go back and get care, we should start to see an uptick,” he explained.
And he hopes showing their preparedness encourages people who need emergency care to trust them to safely provide it.