Huntington Hospital has expanded its units dedicated to treating Covid-19 patients, Dr. Nick Fitterman, executive director of the hospital, said Monday, and plans to add significant new capacity as the epidemic continues.
The hospital, part of the Northwell Health system, has 348 beds, with staffing for about 208 beds. Fitterman said the hospital plans to increase both capacity and staff by 50 percent, and increase intensive care beds five fold to cope with the rapidly changing aspects of the epidemic.
“We have stockpiled medicine and materials; we have a deep staffing pool of volunteers in addition to existing staff,” he said.
In addition to ICU expansion, Northwell hospitals also use an offsite center staffed by nurses who have audio and video capabilities to watch over patients and spot medical problems that may need immediate attention. The EICU center in Syosset is part of a bigger Northwell effort to remotely provide more care, either through care of people at home or through the technology that puts more eyes on an in-hospital situation.
Right now, the hospital has 43 positive cases and another 25 suspected Covid cases, he said, in addition to dozens who have been treated and released, or tested and sent home to self-quarantine.
Seeing people out walking around, shopping or otherwise ignoring social distancing and safe practices has him concerned. “We still see that not enough people are following the advice and taking it seriously. This is not something we will be able to treat our way out of this unless we have cooperation from the public and government,” he said.
“Our country was woefully unprepared for something like this,” Fitterman said.
Those who have been hospitalized are staying for little as a few days to weeks, he said.
He noted, too, that guidance on such COVID-related matters as determining who should be tested has changed as the epidemic has progressed. Right now, the policy is not to test someone who is not symptomatic, but that could and has changed with new developments and the increase in the availability of the test.
Fitterman praised the staff working to care for those who have fallen sick. “If you could see it–we have no visitors allowed; we’re trying to cocoon our staff,” he said. “But it’s so inspiring how the staff has stepped up.”