Covid-19 patients have dropped to low enough levels that Northwell Health is able to earmark Syosset Hospital as a “Covid-contained” medical center where certain elective surgeries will be performed.
That’s according to Dr. David Battinelli, Northwell’s senior vice president and chief medical officer. He spoke with video producer Rob Hoell last Thursday about how the hospital system, which has medical centers throughout the New York metropolitan area, has been coping with the “massive surge” of Covid-19 patients in recent weeks.
Northwell was forced to increase its total number of beds across its 23 hospitals by 2,000 at the height of the crisis, Battinelli said. “We were overwhelmed in the” intensive care units, he noted.
The hospital system redeployed some 1,500 workers in order to keep up with patient demand.
To date, the Northwell system has treated more than 40,000 Covid-19 patients, with 13,000 patients admitted to hospitals. “Nobody in the world has treated and seen more Covid patients than Northwell,” Battinelli said.
As a result, the hospital had to stop elective surgeries, which Battinelli called planned surgeries, meaning most elective surgeries must be done, but not immediately. Rather, they can be scheduled weeks or months in advance.
With elective surgeries put off for six to seven weeks now, many patients need them done, sooner rather than later. The need to resume planned surgeries, Battinelli said, has become “semi-urgent” — hence the opening of Syosset Hospital for the procedures.
Battinelli said Northwell could not guarantee with absolute certainty that Syosset would be entirely free of Covid-19 patients. Rather, he called the hospital “Covid-contained,” meaning the hospital will be able to cordon off any coronavirus patients who might appear there.
Battinelli also spoke of the many clinical trials for Covid-19 treatments that Northwell has undertaken. The system has an estimated 700 patients in trials, while on any given year, it might have a dozen in trials, he said.
Among the trials Northwell is conducting is for famotidine, the active ingredient in the heartburn medicine Pepcid. Doctors in Wuhan, China, noticed that patients who presented with Covid-19 and heartburn, and who were taking famotidine, exhibited less virulent symptoms than those who were not on the drug.
That anecdotal finding led to clinical trials around the world. It appears famotidine might inhibit the coronavirus’s ability to replicate, Battinelli said.
He also spoke of telemedicine as a saving grace of the crisis, allowing patients to communicate with their doctors without having to be seen in an office.
Telemedicine, Battinelli predicted, will grow rapidly after the pandemic has subsided because health care consumers will want it because of its convenience. Patients can dial up their doctors, and then wait at home to be seen virtually.
“It is absolutely the way of the future,” Battinelli said.
He added that he believes social distancing is here to stay for at least the next year. It will be, he said, the “new norm” until a Covid-19 vaccine is discovered.
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