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NYC Health And Hospitals Preparing For Possible Second Wave Of COVID-19 Hospitalizations

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Doctors at New York City's Health and Hospitals system say they are better prepared to treat patients if a second wave of the coronavirus hits the city.

CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas got a look at changes inside Bellevue Hospital aimed at better managing a surge of patients.

To comply with the rules of the hospital, Cline-Thomas could only go inside by herself and capture the upgrades on her cell phone.


New York City Health and Hospitals Bellevue is a long way from the dark days of the pandemic, but it's not yet a distant memory.

"Last time, we were worried about COVID versus not. This time, we have to worry about COVID versus not, flu versus not, COVID and flu together, and neither. And we have to keep all of those four groups separate," said Dr. Amit Uppal, director of critical care at NYC Health and Hospital/Bellevue.

Uppal provided a tour, showing how a unit that's not currently treating COVID patients can now be easily transformed into an ICU.

"What can this room do now that it wasn't able to do before?" Cline-Thomas asked.

"So having an infected patient in this room meant that everybody had to be under precaution the entire time they were in this unit," Uppal said.

Cameras installed in some rooms at Bellevue Hospital help minimize unnecessary exposures. (Credit: CBS2)

That's why glass doors were installed and provide a seal to minimize the spread of infections and also allows doctors to monitor patients from the hallway.

Turn a dial and contaminated air in the room is filtered out, only allowing fresh air in. Cameras installed in some rooms help minimize unnecessary exposures.

Rooms no longer share plumbing or power for life-saving equipment, some of which can be monitored at the nurses' station.

Similar upgrades can be found across the Health and Hospital system.

"We quadrupled ICU space in some of our facilities, tripled everywhere else," chief quality officer Dr. Eric Wei said.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

This time around, the course of treatment for COVID may also be different, especially when it comes to using ventilators.

"We had to learn a lot as we took care of patients," Uppal said. "I think we understand its course a lot better. Now we know what to look for."

RELATED STORY: COVID Long Haulers Still Suffering Long-Term Effects Of Virus Months Later

As for ventilators and PPE, the Health and Hospitals system says it has more than a three months' supply based on what was needed during the height of the pandemic.

"We feel like we're in good shape. Also know that City Hall has their own stockpile in case the hospitals run out," Wei said.

With COVID cases rising in the city, hospitals are better prepared for a worst-case scenario, but they don't expect to relive that nightmare.

Health and Hospitals did not provide a specific price tag for all of the upgrades but says it expects to be reimbursed by a FEMA grant designated for COVID costs.


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