The CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals warns: "We're definitely on the plateau but the plateau is hard'

NYC Health + Hospitals CEO Mitchell Katz

JAMA via YouTube

NYC Health + Hospitals CEO Mitchell Katz

New York has been "flattening the curve," to limit the effect of the coronavirus pandemic.

While signs of a plateau in new cases of the novel coronavirus might signal a success for public health experts, the reality inside the hospital is much different. Advertisement

"We're definitely on the plateau but the plateau is hard," Dr. Mitchell Katz, the CEO NYC Health + Hospitals, said. Mitchell spoke about what hitting a plateau in cases means for hospitals on Monday during a conversation hosted by the Journal of the American Medical Association. "For healthcare workers it means this isn't ending."

NYC Health + Hospitals operates 11 public hospitals, community health centers, and skilled nursing facilities in New York City. Their operations include hard-hit facilities like Elmhurst Hospital in Queens.

As of Monday, the health system has 3,000 coronavirus patients currently hospitalized, 950 of whom are on ventilators. Inside the hospitals, Katz said, healthcare workers are "stretched."

The plateau signals a point at which new cases continue to come in, but at a steady, rather than spiked, rate.

New York appears to be approaching the peak of a pandemic, which could signal that about half of all cases have occurred. But that still leaves another half ahead for healthcare workers to manage. "That we plateaued is a great success for 'shelter at home' and what social distancing has done, but so hard for our healthcare workers," Katz said. Advertisement

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QUEENS, NEW YORK - MARCH 30: Two members of the Fire Department of New York

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To cope with the influx of patients, the health system has set up a 350-bed temporary hospital within the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and has been transferring hundreds of patients from overcrowded hospitals to those with more capacity. Advertisement

Katz said he's also looking to find ways to give employees bonuses for their work.

When asked about plans to put the health system back together at the end of the outbreak, Katz said that wasn't a consideration just yet.

"I wonder how we're going to get through another day," Katz said. Advertisement

But, he said, there will be some hard questions to address, particularly as the health system grapples with the financial losses at a time when millions more Americans are unemployed.

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