6 NYC-area hospitals could face capacity restrictions amid threat of omicron

Coronavirus update for NYC

ByEyewitness News via WABC logo
Thursday, December 2, 2021
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The six hospitals in NYC, Westchester and Long Island have less than 10% capacity remaining.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- As concerns grow over the emergence of the omicron variant in New York City, six hospitals in the area are reporting smaller capacity rates - and the New York Blood Center has announced a blood emergency.

The six hospitals - located in NYC, Westchester County and Long Island - have less than 10% capacity remaining.

Unlike some of the upstate hospitals, however, none of the hospitals in our region are expected to have to cancel elective surgeries starting Friday.

Most are part of larger hospital networks, and they will be able to move resources around within their systems

The local list includes two hospitals in New York City -- Long Island Jewish Forest Hills and Queens Hospital Center, which are both in Queens - and White Plains Hospital Center in Westchester County.

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The remaining three are on Long Island -- Long Island Community Hospital and South Shore University Hospital in Suffolk and North Shore University Hospital in Nassau.

The six hospitals are on a state list that currently shows 37 hospitals in the state at 10% capacity or less.

Under an executive order signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul last week, any hospital with 10% or less capacity by Friday will need to shut down most elective surgeries until Jan. 15, 2022.

The list is fluid and Hochul said she hoped hospitals would increase bed capacity and be removed from the list.

Despite the two hospitals in NYC within the 10% capacity restrictions, "we don't anticipate any hospitals will have to cancel elective procedures but we are monitoring very carefully," Health Commissioner Dr. David Chokshi said.

Three of the five hospitals are Northwell Health locations. The White Plains Hospital Center is part of Montefiore Healthcare System.

Dr. John D'Angelo, the senior Vice President and Executive Director of Emergency Medicine Services at Northwell Health, insists it will manage capacity. As the state's largest health care provider, it has resources to spread around to hospitals that need the help.

"In that second wave we managed much higher numbers and we didn't have to cancel any services," De'Angelo said. "So all the people that rely on us in the community, we were able to maintain those services at a much higher capacity than we're at today."

NYC Health + Hospitals released the following statement about Queens Hospital Center:

"NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens is open for business and prepared to respond to the healthcare needs of the community. We encourage members of the public to come to our hospital for any previously scheduled appointment, treatment, screening, elective surgery, or medical emergency. NYC Health + Hospitals operates as a large health system and not as an individual hospital or facility. Our 11 hospitals act in concert to ensure that patients receive the quality care they have come to expect from the largest public health system in the country. With our single electronic medical record system, we are able to monitor capacity across the system and adjust as needed. Should we need to, we can discharge patients to our skilled nursing facilities and "level-load" across the hospitals. During the prior waves of COVID, we transferred over 2,500 patients across our facilities. Our main message is that we want people to seek the care they need, regardless of their ability to pay or their immigration status!"

Limited capacity was defined as 10% staffed bed capacity remaining or as determined by the state Department of Health based on regional factors or health care utilization.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, New York Blood Center announced a blood emergency due in large part to fears of the omicron variant and the holiday season.

Currently, the region's blood supply stands at a 1-2-day level, well below the ideal inventory of 5-7 days. Blood centers across the country are and have been suffering from shortages for the 19 months of the pandemic.

"In a normal year, winter is a difficult time to maintain the blood supply. Unpredictable weather, cold and flu season, school breaks, family and holiday travel all contribute to making blood donations less of a priority. Normally, October and November are a time where we build our inventory in anticipation of these challenges, but this year is especially dire without a solid inventory pre-holiday and the news of a new variant," said Andrea Cefarelli, Senior Executive Director at New York Blood Center.

Transplant nurse Katie Ip said her hospital, and the patients who rely on the blood, could be in big trouble.

"My biggest concern would be the days where moms are giving birth, there's traumas, there's major casualties and major transplants and surgeries, that we would not be able to have lifesaving measures because we are low," Ip said.

The U.S. recorded its first confirmed case of the omicron variant Wednesday - a person in California who had been to South Africa - as scientists around the world raced to establish whether the new, mutant version of the coronavirus is more dangerous than previous ones.

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