As President and CEO of Jersey City Medical Center for seventeen years I watched them work tirelessly through many complex and challenging events.
I’ve seen many mega-emergency events, but even if taken together they pale in comparison to the magnitude and personal risk of the Coronavirus response.
In 1989 when I started at JCMC we had a 60 bed inpatient AIDS unit, always full – physicians, nurses, therapists, housekeeping and dietary treating patients with this new, always fatal at the time, virus.
Under-the-radar on September 11th JCMC staff triaged thousands of refugees who crossed the Hudson River in an armada of ferry boats, then provided on-site emergency and trauma care to hundreds of patients, using and exhausting our full clinical capacity. The staff treated every patients using all their clinical skills while quietly “searching” for family members stranded in the City.
In my career I also worked at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens and Mount Sinai in Manhattan, both epicenters of pandemic medicine.
Working in a hospital continuously filled with Coronavirus patients, fraught with unknowns, staff must contend with many “first-time” situations. Redeployment to ID unit. Given responsibility for more patients than best practices allow. insufficient PPE. Supply chain problems with therapeutics. Exhaustion from long shifts and too few days off. In some hospitals, asymptomatic positive tested staff, being called in to work on Coronavirus units. The constant concern about in-hospital spread. AND anxiety about taking the virus home.
So to my colleagues at Jersey City, Mount Sinai and Elmhurst, and hospitals all over our country – you can’t see me but I’m standing behind you, worrying about you, and hoping that this will soon be behind us.
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Jonathan M. Metsch, Dr.P.H.
Doctor, Did You Wash Your Hands?® at http://doctordidyouwashyourhands.com/
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