Inside NYC’s Metropolitan Hospital 

A novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, has caused a public health scare throughout the world, in the United States and especially in New York State. Being the epicenter of the virus, Gov. Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered all non-essential workers and students to operate from home until mid April. This virus has weakened economies, damaged healthcare systems, overwhelmed hospitals, and depleted public spaces.

With more than 130,000 people infected and the numbers growing by the hour, nearly everyone in the United States knows someone affected by the virus. Like the Great Depression or the 9/11 attacks, the pandemic has already imposed upon the consciousness of the nation.

A global pandemic on this scale was inevitable and hospitals around the world were not prepared for this rate of infection. Hospitals alone in New York State have reached 100 percent capacity, forcing convention centers, like the Jacob Javits Center  to become a temporary hospital. New York City hospitals, like Metropolitan Hospital, are preparing to transfer patients into this convention center in order to reduce capacity. 

Nadia Jagnatnarain, on the left, is suited up and ready to treat patients at NYC’s Metropolitan Hospital.

“During the midst of March, our emergency department (ED) began overflowing, having 4-5 times the normal amount of patients. As a result, there was a large influx of COVID-19 patients admitted. In order to reduce capacity in our hospital, we began transferring non-COVID patients to the Javits Center and Coler-Goldwater Hospital.” said Nadia Jagnatnarain, Assistant Director of Infection Control at Metropolitan Hospital. 

Some actions the hospital took to maximize space was to convert a room with two beds into three beds. The rooms have a cohort of patients with COVID-19, meaning all patients who test positive for this virus are grouped together. Moreover, Metropolitan Hospital has opened up two ICUs in order to generate more space for incoming patients.

“As we prioritize treating patients with COVID-19, we were forced to cancel all scheduled surgeries and close clinics. We need all staff on deck,” she said. 

 While clinics have closed, the space has not yet been used. The intention of closing the clinics is to involve as many healthcare workers as possible. As for the staff, they have been described as tense, filled with anxiety and overwhelmed by what they are experiencing. To put it another way, most individuals feel like they’re in a war zone.

Being a part of the infection control team, Nadia Jagnatnarain is in charge of informing medical professionals of the protocols for the coronavirus, set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Department of Health (DOH). 

“Everyone must wear their PPEs (personal protective equipment) when entering the room of a COVID patient and remove them before exiting. It is also crucial for doctors and nurses to correctly identify COVID patients in order to appropriately use the supplies of PPEs…We do have PPEs, but the problem is that many are hoarding them, ” she said. 

Medical professionals must follow the requirements set by the CDC and DOH before testing patients for the virus. If the person fails to meet the criteria or tests negative, they are sent home and told to isolate themselves for 14 days. When they do, however, follow the criteria or test positive, specific measures will be taken. The patient is told of the results and is advised to isolate themselves, but if their symptoms (such as shortness of breath) worsen, they must return to the hospital. Some patients do experience a critical condition in which some do have to be put on ventilators. 

“Despite everything going on, the community is doing everything in their power to provide for the hospital. Small businesses have contributed boxes of food for the staff and we couldn’t be more thankful,” Nadia said.

Although we are experiencing a pandemic, there seems to be an epidemic of compassion. At this time, the new normal has become self-isolation, social distancing, and quarantine. We cannot foresee the end to this pandemic or when the curve will flatten, but we can take action. Stay home. Wash your hands. Keep six feet apart from each other. By following these steps, we can only hope to save more lives and fight against COVID-19. 

– by Sia Jagnatnarain ’20