Still, the hospital president warned that the next wave will still be a challenge. She hoped that the numbers will not be what they were before, but over the past two weeks, her volume has doubled. Mucaria said she’s already getting on phone calls two or three times a day about preparation.
“My biggest fear is not within the hospital, it’s outside the hospital,” she said, “with people who don’t think the rules apply to them.”
She expressed worry that after Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and the Christmas holidays, hospitals will see a lot more COVID-19 patients. She’s also worried about college students returning home for break, particularly if they have been acting as if they are immune to the disease.
What would help, especially on the government side, is if political leaders were all on the same page rather than fighting publicly, Mucaria said. She hopes that they will look at the volume at different hospitals and make sure that allocations of Remdesivir, vaccinations, ventilators and PPE are given to hospitals that are in the most need.
Mucaria added the messaging should come from one source, rather than different messages from the various federal agencies. She also hopes government officials will be more strict with the public on following COVID-19 protocols and regulations.
“People are not following the rules,” she said, “and there’s not enough consequence.”
With reports of several pharmaceutical companies nearing successful vaccines, Mucaria said staff in the NewYork-Presbyterian system are meeting often to discuss distribution and who should receive it first. She said it doesn’t matter which vaccine comes out because she believes they will all work.
“We are very hopeful that within the next two months, we will start vaccinating our staff,” she said. “That is probably the most hopeful any of us have been in a long time.”
Though she does not want to prognosticate, Mucaria added that she is hopeful that by the end of the first quarter next year “things will simmer down.”
In the meantime, NewYork-Presbyterian will continue to rely on its physician partners at its Medical Group off-site locations to play a key role in communities. During the height of the pandemic, many of those locations closed, Mucaria said. All of the physicians and staff were redeployed to the hospital, which she said was a “huge help.”
The physicians provided thousands of telemedicine visits. During the crisis, when families could not visit their loved ones, they would get in touch with call centers, some of which were operating 24 hours a day. Physicians would run those call centers, so they had access to medical records and provided families with updates.
“We would get calls at 2 or 3 in the morning from family members who couldn’t sleep,” she said.
The Medical Group’s physicians also kept in touch with patients who came to the emergency room with COVID-19, but were not sick enough to be admitted. Rather than discharging them without follow up, the hospital sent those patients home with oxygen, a thermometer and a pulse oximeter to test their oxygen saturation. The doctors would follow up with those patients through telemedicine several times a day.
Those physicians are all back in operation now, Mucaria said, though visits are roughly 80 percent in person and 20 percent telehealth. Many of the offices have expanded hours to avoid crowding.
“They are still doing a lot of telehealth monitoring,” she said. “They’re all following up with all of these patients.”
Some of the Medical Group physicians are coming into the Flushing hospital to help with testing both employees and the public. Mucaria said they are likely to also administer the vaccine in a few months as well. Lately, the hospital has been focusing a lot of attention on partnerships with local businesses and community organizations, such as the Queens Chamber of Commerce.
NewYork-Presbyterian recently launched a grant program for local businesses. While other hospitals have local businesses apply directly to them, NYP Queens made the decision to work with the Queens Chamber to adjudicate the grants. Altogether, 283 Queens small businesses received grants through the program, which gave out more than $400,000 in the borough alone. Most of the dollars went to purchase PPE.
“That’s a great thing, and hopefully we can think of other ways we can partner in the future,” Mucaria said. “We don’t want to just be a place where people come when they’re sick.”
She said she wants the hospital to be a place of knowledge, and help the chamber with screening, prevention and education. Mucaria said she also joined the board of the New York Hall of Science. The hospital is now partnering with the institution to create educational materials for kids coming to the museum on viruses and transmission.
The hospital president said they work closely with many Chinese, Korean and Taiwanese groups, which are active in the surrounding neighborhoods.
“We’re really trying to get out there and into the community,” Mucaria said, “much more than waiting for people to come here.”