This is Holy Name Medical Center three months after COVID-19 began overwhelming the hospital where 150 patients have died.
“At times I would say it was demoralizing, but we never quit,” said Dr. Jose Gomez-Marquez.
On arrival there now, patients are greeted by new rules and protocols. Concierge service and escorts take them where they need to go.
“We’ve actually found through these modifications, not only do we enhance patient safety, we increase efficiency. And patient satisfaction actually goes up because everybody coming in now feels like a VIP,” said Mike Maron, president and CEO of Holy Name in Teaneck.
Maron, who himself recovered from COVID-19, gave NJTV News a tour of the “new normal.” The lab for blood drawing and COVID testing has been moved to the front door — there’s no trekking through the hospital.
“We can see up to 400 people in here. We just move them in and out. It’s fast processing,” said phlebotomy point-of-care supervisor Louise Fronjian.
At all entrances, a safe-space scan now checks for things like temperature.
Outpatients go to nearly a dozen different entrances depending on what doctor they need to see. Signs are everywhere advising people to practice social distancing. The requirement for that precaution means scheduling patients so that waiting areas stay just about empty.
“We cannot accommodate as many patients as we were accommodating before,” said Dr. Gilberto Gastell. That has led instead to numerous video visits every day. But, passing through the same-day surgery recovery area, Maron warns that pre-existing conditions should not be ignored.
For many hospitals, including Holy Name, white tents became the symbol of COVID-19 triage. Now they’re being used for check-ins.
Dealing with people’s anxiety
“We’re dealing with the anxiety and perception that people have that if they see a tent, they instantly think ‘infection, bad, stay away,’” Maron said.
Maron said they invented the “Isopod” to protect staff providing critical care.
“And what that allows us to do is to put that over a stretcher when the patient is inside under that box,” he said. “It’s another added level of exhausting all the virus that they would potentially expel.”
A few patients are still recovering in isolated centers with 300 beds. At the peak there were 220 COVID-positive patients. Maron said Holy Name will leave the centers in place as it prepares for a second surge.
“If staffing shortages become a problem, PPE becomes a problem, this facility design helps alleviate both those problems,” Maron said.
“We need to be ready for another spike,” said Dr. Thomas Birch, who leads the hospital’s clinical research institute.
Birch said providers are in much better shape for a surge even though they don’t have any definitive therapies.