BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Dr. Joseph Costa, the chief of Mercy Medical Center's Critical Care Division, died due to COVID-19 on Saturday morning. Costa was 56 years old.
According to a message to the Mercy medical community, Dr. Costa worked selflessly on the front lines at the Baltimore hospital when the pandemic arrived in Maryland.
"Joe was admired and respected among providers throughout the Baltimore region for his clinical expertise. He was beloved by his patients and their family members—known for his warm and comforting bedside manner as well as his direct and informative communication style," said the hospital. "When he counseled our patients and families, he did so with great compassion and empathy. For all the nurses and staff who worked closely with Joe on the Intensive Care Unit, he was like an older brother that all admired and revered."
Dr. Joshua Sharfstein with Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health and who once headed the city and state health departments spoke to WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren about Costa Monday.
"Dr. Costa is a hero. He was doing incredible work saving lives for many years, including from the coronavirus. It's a terrible tragedy that he died. For people like him and all those risking their lives to take care of people in this region, we should do our part to protect them," Dr. Sharfstein said.
Sharfstein is concerned about a surging number of cases in Maryland. The state has reported more than 1,000 new cases in two of the past three days.
"We're in a country that is not able to control this virus. There are many states seeing record highs. People come into Maryland all the time. I think we're vulnerable to a surge in infections," he said. "I definitely think it's necessary to do more than what is being done in the state. ...I'm sure I'm not the only one nervous looking at pictures of crowded restaurants in Ocean City because you know these people do not live in Worcester County all year. They are coming back and they may well be coming back to Baltimore, Baltimore County and other places."
A memorial service for Costa is being planned.
Read the full letter below:
Dear Mercy Family,
It is with profound sadness that we must inform you of the passing of Joseph J. Costa, M.D., Chief, Division of Critical Care at Mercy. Joe was more than a trusted colleague; he was also a true friend to many. He dedicated his life and career to caring for the sickest patients. And when the global pandemic came down upon us, Joe selflessly continued his work on the front lines—deeply committed to serving our patients and our City during this time of great need. His memory will live on as an example to us all.
Joe has been a special, beloved member of the Mercy Family for more than two decades. He joined Mercy in 1997 and became Chief of Critical Care in 2005. From 2010 to 2016 he served as an officer of the Mercy Medical Staff, culminating with his 2-year tenure as President of the Medical Staff. Joe was also deeply dedicated to Mercy's mission and values in so many ways, including serving as Chairman of our Medical Morals Committee and as a member of the Mercy Health Services Board of Trustees Mission and Corporate Ethics Committee.
Joe was admired and respected among providers throughout the Baltimore region for his clinical expertise. He was beloved by his patients and their family members—known for his warm and comforting bedside manner as well as his direct and informative communication style. When he counseled our patients and families, he did so with great compassion and empathy. For all the nurses and staff who worked closely with Joe on the Intensive Care Unit, he was like an older brother that all admired and revered. During a recent interview discussing the pandemic, he remarked about how proud he was to be a part of the Mercy family, expressing his love for his co-workers and his appreciation for all we are doing to care for our patients. He will be missed greatly.
This is an incredibly difficult time for Joe's family, friends, and colleagues. We encourage you to extend a hand of comfort to employees and physicians who are grieving and please say a prayer for his family and loved ones. Think of the ways Joe would comfort patients and families and do the same for one another.
A life so beautifully lived deserves to be beautifully remembered. Planning is underway now for a memorial service and details will be shared as soon as possible. We will grieve together and we will get through this challenging time together. Thank you and God Bless.
for more features.