March 26, 2020 / By Daniella Silva and Jareen Imam
Overfilled waiting rooms packed with people who are contagious. Patients waiting six hours to be seen. Others on stretchers waiting 50 to 60 hours for a bed. Doctors desperately trying to get more ventilators. That is what it’s like to be on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic at a public hospital in New York City, Dr. Rikki Lane, an emergency room doctor at the Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens, said.
“Our hospital has never, ever, ever seen anything like this,” said Lane, who has worked for more than 20 years at Elmhurst, a public hospital with 545 beds.
Lane said the emergency department has been “overwhelmed” for about three weeks and the hospital is in desperate need of help as the coronavirus spreads across the city, which has become a fast-growing epicenter of the virus with more than 21,000 known cases and 281 deaths as of Thursday.
The hospital has spent weeks now expanding the areas within the facility that it has been using to house the coronavirus patients, but the ever rising rush of patients has been “inconceivable,” she said.
“Whatever space we create is immediately filled and overfilled,” she said.