Why NYC's largest emergency hospital is pretty much empty

  • The coronavirus has led to jam-packed hospitals across New York City.
  • When Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the opening of an emergency field hospital at Javits Convention Center, healthcare workers expected it to take pressure off overcrowded hospitals.
  • Built in record time and boasting a capacity of 2,500 beds, Javits seemed like good news.
  • But after weeks of being open, Javits is pretty much empty.
  • Getting a patient transferred to Javits is almost impossible. Plus, the convention center doesn't have the equipment or ICU beds needed to handle COVID-19 patients.
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Following is a transcript of the video.


Narrator:2020欧洲杯夺冠热门 As COVID-19 cases rise to over 2 million worldwide, countries have been converting stadiums, convention centers, and even parks into emergency field hospitals.

Libertina Brandt:2020欧洲杯夺冠热门 Hospitals and clinics are quickly becoming overwhelmed with patients. So really the purpose of these field hospitals is to ease some of that pressure.

Narrator: With more than 110,000 COVID-19 cases by April 14 in New York City alone, four emergency field hospitals have gone up across the city and two more are underway. The city's biggest, and one of the largest in the country, is the Javits Center. Javits has a history of being called on during emergencies, first as a FEMA headquarters after 9/11, then as a collection site for donations during Hurricane Maria.

To battle COVID-19, FEMA was brought in on March 20 to design the Javits Center medical facility. Altogether, it took four days to complete the first phase of 1,000 beds.

Andrew Cuomo: In just one week, the Javits Center looks entirely different. This is a place that's literally going to save lives.

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Narrator: With thousands more beds slated to be built in the coming weeks, many believed Javits would be the saving grace overcrowded hospitals in Manhattan so desperately needed. But it wasn't as helpful as everyone had hoped. It was originally meant to handle non-COVID-19 patients.

Brandt:2020欧洲杯夺冠热门 The thing is, nobody's leaving their house right now, right? So there are very few non-COVID-related illnesses and injuries. So the center was sitting empty while hospital hallways were packed with COVID patients because there just wasn't enough room for them.

Narrator: On April 2, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that Javits' new mission would be to treat COVID-19 cases. On that same day, Javits' second phase of bed construction was completed, and Cuomo designated 2,500 of them for COVID-19.

2020欧洲杯夺冠热门But much to the frustration of healthcare workers, since that announcement, Javits has taken in nowhere near its capacity. As of April 7, the convention center had admitted only 66 patients. This was due in large part to the strict admission requirements. At first, a patient could only be transferred to Javits if they were convalescing, or in the recovery period. The fear was that Javits didn't have the ICU beds, operating rooms, or equipment necessary to handle patients who might relapse or need surgery because of an underlying condition.

One nurse in an East Harlem hospital anonymously told the New York Post that there was a 25-point checklist to transfer a patient into Javits. Out of 95 patients they requested for transfer, only one met the standards.

Brandt:2020欧洲杯夺冠热门 The convention center wasn't originally set up to treat COVID patients, mainly because they just didn't have enough ICU beds or ventilators. So when they did start to get the proper equipment, it made sense that they were strict and slow about who they would let in. The only problem with this was the city hospitals just didn't have the space or time to wait.

Narrator: Javits later relaxed requirements for admission and began accepting COVID-19 patients of all levels. But this hasn't completely solved the problem. Javits has yet to admit more than 500 patients. Meanwhile, city hospitals are contending with more than 20,000 patients. Javits has been slow to receive equipment from the US stockpile and can't accept a patient who's intubated. Even transferring patients to the convention center has been a logistical nightmare. Guidelines required Javits officials to pick up patients they'd hand-selected for transfer and bring them to the convention center. But this slowed down the process considerably.

Brandt: You know, even if Gov. Cuomo overestimated the amount of beds needed, that's not a bad thing. Hospitals in the city are still overwhelmed with the amount of coronavirus cases that they're taking on, and this center can absolutely be used to help relieve some of that pressure. We just have to use it.

Narrator: Neither the Javits Convention Center nor the governor's office responded to our request for comment.

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