As the COVID-19 pandemic intensifies in Hudson County, hospital beds are filling up. To add to the supply of urgently needed beds, Gov. Murphy has scheduled the construction of three field hospitals in New Jersey, with one in Secaucus at the Meadowlands Exposition Center.
The move comes as the local hospital in Secaucus was forced to expand its facilities to cope with incoming COVID-19 patients. In a virtual briefing on April 3, Hudson Regional Hospital made an urgent request for nursing volunteers to staff the expanded facilities.
The staff at Hudson Regional needs additional help to manage the rapid influx of patients who have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus or are experiencing compromising symptoms.
The institution has converted areas of its facility into a second Intensive Care Unit and Emergency Room but does not have enough staff to care for more than the 70 current admitted patients, or the anticipated additional patients.
The hospital has been searching for everyone from school nurses and nursing students to paid positions, but is coming up short. The hospital reports that it has had 15 deaths since Monday and is intubating up to five patients a day.
Dr. Nizar Kifaieh, president and CEO for Hudson Regional Hospital, thanked Gov. Murphy and state and local officials for their help during the crisis.
“Governor Murphy and his staff have been very responsive to our needs, providing ventilators earlier this week, and Hudson County and Secaucus have been tremendous in securing PPE’s and other supplies,” said he said.
Kifaieh noted the need for diverting patients to the field hospital.
“This disease progresses very quickly and the number of patients with the virus or symptoms continues to strain our resources,” Kifaieh said. “It would be a tremendous help if the Meadowlands Expo Center floating hospital could take in patients with less severe COVID-19 symptoms so that our staff could direct all our resource to COVID-19 patients in critical condition.”
That seems unlikely, because the field hospital was created for non-COVID-19 patients only. On April 2, Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli corrected any false notions that the field hospital would house COVID-19 patients.
Healthcare workers desperately needed
Hudson Regional continues to seek volunteer help as healthcare workers themselves are contracting the virus while fighting to keep COVID-19 patients alive.
Nearly 2,200 Hudson County residents, emergency workers, and first responders were seen in the first two weeks of the hospital’s drive-through testing site.
“The county is very pleased with how well the partnership has been able to respond to the needs of the community during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Deputy County Executive David Drumeler on April 3. “We tested 289 people yesterday and continue to increase capacity every day.”
According to Hudson Regional Hospital, 58 percent of individuals were positive. The collaboration between the hospital, Hudson County, and Secaucus is seeing a higher-than-state-average positive rate due to the program’s prescreening requirement.
“Secaucus residents are doing their part by staying home, and our 19 hotels are on standby to provide housing for military, volunteer doctors and nurses, and family of patients,” Gonnelli said.
While the hospital staff may be stretched thin and in desperate need of help, Kifaieh reiterated his unwavering support for the efforts of his current staff.
“I’m extremely proud of the camaraderie and tireless work of our staff. We’re at war, and it’s been all-hands-on-deck with our army of doctors, nurses, leadership team, nonclinical staff rolling up their sleeves so that we can provide care to our community.”
Volunteers with nursing backgrounds can call (201) 392-3100.
Hudson Regional Hospital is at 55 Meadowlands Pkwy. in Secaucus. Its drive-through testing site continues to operate Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. by appointment only. Hudson County residents must call 201-388-1097 or 646-862-1161 for a pre-screening in order to get tested.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.