Why USNS Comfort, Javits Center are mostly empty as coronavirus strains New York ERs
The USNS Comfort and the Javits Center field hospital remain practically empty of COVID-19 patients as both Department of Defense-run facilities strictly manage intake while getting up to speed — to the frustration of medical staffers at swamped city emergency rooms.
The Navy-manned, 500-bed Comfort, which docked last week on the city’s West Side — and was this week reconfigured to take high-severity coronavirus cases — has just over 60 patients, Navy officials said Thursday.
And the Army-manned, 1,000-bed Javits Center field hospital — now serving lower-severity COVID-19 cases — had only 225 patients, officials said Thursday.
Meanwhile, cramped hospitals are being told that nearly all of their patients don’t fit the “criteria” for admission at either facility, frustrated staffers and public officials complain.
“It’s bulls–t,” one staffer at the overcrowded Metropolitan Hospital Center in East Harlem told The Post of a 25-point checklist for transferring patients to Javits.
The worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the hospital recently asked Javits to take 95 of their COVID-19 patients, but only one made the cut.
And yet hospital admissions continue to rise.
“Big problem,” agreed a staffer at Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx, when asked about the tight criteria at Javits and the Comfort.
Jacobi has some 100 admitted patients it cannot find room for, the staffer said Thursday.
“We’re still backed up 50 deep in both adult and pediatric ERs,” said the staffer, taking a few seconds out of a busy shift to text The Post. “There’s no beds.”
A state health official who asked not to be identified countered that the head of the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation — which includes Jacobi and Metropolitan — was on Thursday’s daily conference call with hospital executives.
“When state health officials asked if there were any patient capacity issues, we were told there were no issues,” the official said.
The relative emptiness of the two federally run hospitals did not sit well with City Council Health Committee Chairman Mark Levine, who just recovered from COVID-19.
“These are well-resourced facilities that are 90 percent empty. And we have hospitals that are overflowing,” the Manhattan Democrat said.
“They’re going to have to loosen the criteria on the kind of coronavirus patients they can accept and there are a whole bunch of logical barriers that have to be loosened,” Levine said.
He complained that the Army and Navy are insisting on hand-picking and transporting a small number hospital patients to Javits and the Comfort.
“Hospitals should be be able to drop off patients there instead of having staff from Javits or Comfort come to pick them up,” he said.
Patients were being barred from transfer to either facility for sometimes trivial reasons, he complained.
“They were asking the hospitals to supply patients with five days of medication,” or else they couldn’t be transferred. “That’s unnecessary,” he said. “Both of these facilities have pharmacies.”