As the number of coronavirus cases climbs in New York, hospitals are stepping up to treat more patients, prevent the virus’s spread in their facilities and educate the community.
Rockville Centre’s Mercy Medical Center and its parent health provider, Catholic Health Services, is no exception. The number of cases in Nassau County has risen dramatically in the past two weeks. At press time on Tuesday, there were nearly 3,000 cases and 10 deaths countywide.
Mercy did not disclose how many patients its staff was treating. Nassau’s second coronavirus-related death was a 96-year-old patient at Mercy.
To make room for an influx of patients, Mercy and all other CHS hospitals canceled all hospital-based elective surgeries from March 23 through April 24.
“This decision will minimize the risk of infection while expanding hospital capacity for COVID-19 patients,” CHS officials wrote on the network’s website. “Ambulatory procedures outside the hospital setting will continue.”
“Things that could be done on an elective basis are going to be delayed or canceled to free up capacity,” CHS President Dr. Patrick O’Shaugh-nessy said in a recent appearance on “CBS This Morning.” “Managing the COVID-19 crisis will be more of a marathon and not a sprint.”
Last week, Mercy suspended all visitation. The hospital will make exceptions on a case-by-case basis, such as newborn delivery or end of life.
“We know that visits from family members and friends play a vital role in helping patients recover,” the CHS website reads. “But, in light of the public health challenges posed by the coronavirus, we have adopted new policies designed to balance the needs of patients while ensuring the safest possible conditions for anyone using our facilities.”
In addition to updating policies, Mercy and CHS officials have laid out resources on the CHS webpage. There are infographics that display information from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which compare symptoms of coronavirus with those of a cold or the flu, and risk levels. The most common coronavirus symptoms are fever, shortness of breath and a dry cough.
CHS officials have appeared on public panels to educate people about the virus, and offered tips for reducing anxiety created by the pandemic. “The constant flow of information related to coronavirus can become overwhelming,” said Dr. Ronald Brenner, CHS’s chairman of behavioral health. “It’s important to take a break and step away from media reports and the constant scrolling through social channels.”
Brenner noted that stress can sometimes lead to more severe anxiety that manifests itself in atypical reactions, such as excessive worry that prevents completing daily tasks, changes in energy levels or eating patterns and prolonged feelings of overwhelming worry. He encouraged those with these reactions to seek professional mental health assistance.
Mental health professionals at CHS suggest the following for alleviating stress: eating healthy, exercise, adequate sleep, virtually connecting with friends and family and reducing exposure to news and social media.
Mercy Medical Center offers telepsychiatry services, which can be obtained by calling (855) CHS-4500.
For more information about the coronavirus, go to chsli.org/coronavirus-latest-catholic-health-services.