March 31, 2020 By Allie Griffin
The 350-bed temporary hospital that will takeover a portion of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center will be used as an overflow facility to specifically help the heavily-burdened Elmhurst Hospital.
The beds will begin serving non-ICU coronavirus patients next week, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced today at the Flushing Meadows Corona Park venue that houses the US Open each year.
The center will be built out in three weeks.
“Right now this looks like a bunch of tennis courts,” de Blasio said. “Very soon this is going to be 350 hospital beds to protect the lives of New Yorkers.”
Starting next week, the tennis center will begin taking patients from Elmhurst Hospital–as the number of gravely-ill patients continues to stretch the hospital. Elmhurst Hospital has been called ground zero and the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.
“This place will be a lifesaving place,” de Blasio said. “This place will not only help folks inflicted with coronavirus, help them to survive and recover and go home — it is specifically going to help patients who come through Elmhurst Hospital and can receive care here.”
The facility will provide relief to the hardworking staff at Elmhurst.
“It’s going to help take the pressure off of Elmhurst,” de Blasio said. “We all know that for a variety of reasons Elmhurst has been the place that has borne the brunt.”
The number of patients coming into the hospital’s emergency department more than doubled in recent weeks, Dr. Eric Wei, vice president of the city’s Health + Hospitals, said.
While the onslaught of COVID-19 patients has begun to decline, the patients now arriving at the public hospital are sicker and sicker, with shortness of breath and respiratory failure due to the coronavirus, Wei said — and the hospital’s ICU beds are filling up.
Wei said Elmhurst Hospital has put 19 patients on ventilators in the past 48 hours and 42 patients on the ventilators in the past four days.
Health + Hospitals has begun transferring patients from Elmhurst to other hospitals across the city in order to level its capacity. Almost 200 patients have been moved across the system in the last week and a half, Wei said.
Elmhurst area residents who are suffering from medical emergencies other than the coronavirus are being directed to other hospitals throughout the city in order to make space at Elmhurst Hospital. For example, cancer patients are being taken to Memorial Sloan Kettering and ortho patients are heading to the Hospital for Special Surgery, Wei said.
“But the indicators I’m looking at are flashing red,” he said.
The number of patients is surging across New York City’s 11 public hospitals.
Queens Hospital is seeing an onslaught of patients. Wei said it is about four or five days behind Elmhurst, in terms of the curve of COVID-19 cases, and healthcare workers have transferred ICU patients there to other hospitals as well.
“The borough of Queens is clearly on the front edge of this pandemic,” but the other hospitals in Brooklyn and Bronx are starting to see surges in coronavirus patients as well, Wei said.
Queens continues to have the highest number of COVID-19 cases — 13,576 as of 9:30 a.m. and more than 300 borough residents have died of the virus, according to city data.
The moving of patients between hospitals to ensure none are over capacity is a state-issued plan.
Governor Andrew Cuomo said every hospital in the state — both private and public — must work together to spread out patients as well as staff and supplies, so that no one hospital is overwhelmed.
“The hospitals that are in a weaker position are the hospitals that are going to suffer when they then carry in that added burden,” Cuomo said at a Albany press conference this morning. “That was Elmhurst Hospital.”