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MSSN officials: hospital still seeing trauma, emergency patients

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Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital in Oceanside is still open for trauma and emergency cases, despite an influx of critically ill coronavirus patients in recent weeks.

That was the message that Joe Calderone, MSSN’s senior vice president of corporate communications, and Dr. Rajiv Datta, the hospital’s chief of surgery, delivered to the public via a 15-minute Facebook Live session on Thursday.

“We are still a trauma center,” Datta said. “We still take care of acute cases.” 

MSSN is the South Shore’s only trauma center, which treats the most urgent cases such as car crash and gunshot victims. An emergency patient, by contrast, might be suffering from an acute medical condition such as appendicitis.

To remain a Level II trauma center, the hospital must maintain a trauma operating room and keep a trauma surgeon on duty at the hospital 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

As of Thursday, Calderone said, the hospital had 450 patients in total — 300, or 66 percent, were Covid-19 patients.

All trauma and emergency patients are tested for coronavirus upon entering the hospital, Datta said, “so we can protect them, and we can also protect our staff.”

The operating room is equipped with a HEPA filter to ensure the air remains pure, and all surgical tables and equipment are wiped down with bleach, he said.

Surgical patients recover in the operating room, and then they are segregated in a non-Covid-19 section of the hospital. 

“The staff is very keenly aware of which patients are Covid positive and which are not,” Datta said. “That information is delivered to everybody.”

He emphasized, “The operating room is still functional, only doing trauma cases and emergency cases.”

Follow-up care is provided in MSSN’s outpatient facility in Valley Stream and via telehealth video chat. 

“It’s a new way of practicing medicine,” Datta said.

There is no longer visitation at the hospital. After patients are sufficiently recovered from surgery, family members or friends must pick them up at the front entrance of the hospital on Merrick Road. They cannot enter the hospital.

“This is an all-hands-on-deck situation at South Nassau,” Calderone noted. 

A number of staff from hospital’s surgical team, both surgeons and nurses, have been redeployed to medical wings of the hospital to help treat Covid-19 patients.

Normally, the hospital might have 22 patients on ventilators. It now has 80.

“I’m amazed to see how our staff is helpful,” Datta said, noting that retired surgeons have called to volunteer their services. 

“So far we have been able to accommodate,” he said. “Everybody is stretched.”

The hospital is still performing a small number of elective surgeries for cancer patients, said Datta, who is medical director of MSSN’s Feil Cancer Center in Valley Stream.

Primarily, however, cancer patients are being treated with radiation and chemotherapy in cordoned-off wings — chemo at the front of the hospital, and radiation at the back.

Both Calderone and Datta emphasized the importance of social distancing. “We are not out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination,” Calderone said. 

To watch the full video, click here.