In an internal video briefing obtained by The Post, Dr. Laura Forese, the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of New York-Presbyterian, outlined a plan being organized by an unnamed hospital trustee to charter a flight to China on a mask-finding mission.
It’s one of many avenues being explored by the hospital system to avoid running out of the important personal protective equipment that guards medical professionals from contracting the highly infectious COVID-19 virus currently sweeping the country.
New York-Presbyterian staff are also experimenting with several ways to disinfect used masks, including sterilizing them with ultraviolet light or powerful chemicals, according to the briefing, which was sent out to employees Sunday.
“Everyone is going to have to make sacrifices for a while, and everyone is going to have to start thinking differently,” Dr. Forese said in the video. “We’re going to have to reimagine our work entirely.”
In recent days the hospital has instituted a policy goal of allocating one mask per employee every shift, regardless of occupation, with more being given to those in positions that carry a higher risk of coming into contact with the coronavirus.
But this puts the hospital system’s existing supply in jeopardy of running out over the next few weeks. Dr. Forese estimated the hospital’s system is currently using 50,000 masks a day, and by the time it reaches maximum capacity that number has the potential to double.
After it became clear that coronavirus would batter the city’s medical system, the hospital set up and promoted a public email account, email@example.com, to facilitate leads on mask distributors. Instead of becoming a productive way to centralize the search, however, the inbox was inundated with spam and ‘fraudulent’ leads, frustrating hospital leaders looking for a quick fix to their impending equipment shortage.
Earlier Sunday, Mayor Bill de Blasio blamed President Donald Trump and the federal government for the city’s medical equipment shortage, and said in an appearance on CNN that New York was a mere 10 days away from critical shortages of masks and ventilators that will make a big difference in how New York City weathers the pandemic.
“If we don’t get more ventilators in the next 10 days, people will die who don’t have to die. It’s as simple as that,” Hizzoner told Wolf Blitzer on CNN’s “The Situation Room.”
At the hospital, Dr. Forese said, doctors are currently working on a way to use one ventilator on two patients at once — and New York-Presbyterian is working with other facilities to teach medical professionals across the city how to apply the same tactics.
The intensive care unit spent Sunday performing “dry runs” of the technology and said they hoped to have it operational by Monday or Tuesday. “I have to give tremendous credit to our ICU team leaders … they have been working tirelessly on this,” Dr Forese said.
Neither New York-Presbyterian nor Dr. Forese responded to a request for comment.
As of Monday, New York has already seen 271 deaths due to the coronavirus, and a total of 26,486 people who have tested positive, according to numbers released by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.