March 30, 2020 / Tara Bannow and Maria Castellucci
What used to be the heart team at Manhattan’s Mount Sinai Morningside—its cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, intensivists, cardiovascular nurses—is now a COVID-19 team.
As the pandemic sweeps the U.S., prominent health systems have rolled out plans to redeploy specialists who don’t typically treat infectious diseases to care for patients battling the novel coronavirus. But nowhere has this shift taken on the same urgency as in New York City, which as of Monday morning had more than 36,000 COVID-19 cases.
Mount Sinai’s eight hospitals are nearing capacity to handle the influx. At 495-bed Mount Sinai Morningside, the 26-bed cardiac ICU is now an at-capacity COVID-19 ICU. Its 31-bed step-down unit has also been converted and is beginning to care for COVID-19 patients. The team is building out what will eventually be about 75 negative pressure rooms.
“It’s a total transformation,” said Dr. John Puskas, the hospital’s chair of cardiovascular surgery. “We have literally transformed a heart team, a very sophisticated team of people which has been built up over years, to now provide a very different kind of care to a very different kind of patient in our ICU and our step-down ward.”
Nationwide, anesthesiologists, orthopedic surgeons and cardiologists are among the specialists heeding calls from overwhelmed hospitals to help tackle their COVID-19 surges. Health systems like Mount Sinai, Providence St. Joseph Health and Henry Ford Health System are rolling out plans that outline which specialists can treat COVID-19 patients and in what capacity. Not all doctors have the training required to ventilate a patient, but they can still monitor a COVID-19 patient who hasn’t yet progressed to that stage. Health systems are taking inventory of who is available, what their skills are and whether they’re willing to step up.