The Impact of the Coronavirus Crisis on Medical Care
Contributor(s): Edward Hynes
The Shortage of ICU Beds, Supplies, and Providers
Governor Andrew Cuomo explained in a news conference on March 17, 2020, that New York has 3,000 intensive care unit (ICU) beds in the entire state. ICU patients typically need mechanical ventilator assistance with breathing (meaning they struggle to breathe on their own) and continuous monitoring by staff. New York State has on hand between approximately 5,000 and 6,000 ventilators in total.
At any given time, approximately 80% of ICU beds are used by sick patients in the state (think of people with blood infections or bad pneumonia).
This means, on average, on any given day only 600 ICU beds are available in New York State for patients who develop severe symptoms such as shortness of breath due to coronavirus.
Governor Cuomo anticipates that New York State will need between 18,600 and 37,200 ICU beds in the coming months to care for coronavirus patients. This is between 31 and 62 times what is typically available on any given day in the state and between 3 and 6 times the number of ventilators available in New York. In other words, the coronavirus’ impact is going to be one that our current health care system is not equipped to handle.
Coronavirus also impacts many other aspects of our healthcare system, including a shortage of both medical supplies and medical providers. Lack of medical supplies increases the risk of exposure for health care providers which will lead to a further reduction in those who can provide care. This means people who need care won’t be able to get it. This will impact everyone who needs medical care, not just those suffering from the coronavirus.
But the shortage of ICU beds is perhaps the most ominous, as having an ICU bed and a mechanical ventilator to help one breathe will mean the difference between life and death for many patients.
What Does This Mean for Your Healthcare?
Many clinical offices are closing, scaling back visits, or doing remote (telephonic or Skype-like) visits. The fear is that patients coming in increase the risk of spread, which increases the number of sick people, which increases the need for hospital beds, which are already in short supply.
Many elective procedures (knee replacements, tummy tucks, etc.) were recently ordered to be canceled by Governor Cuomo. Masks, gloves, syringes, gowns, and the like are used in routine office visits and during elective procedures, but many of these items are going to be needed in the near future and there is a real fear of running short on medical supplies.
Doctors are asking patients to use their best judgment about seeking medical care. They are concerned that if you go to an emergency room or clinic, and you don’t require in-person medical attention, you may be unnecessarily exposing yourself, your loved ones, and others to the virus.
We are hearing from medical providers that emergency rooms are currently very full and chaotic given the circumstances.
If you have a loved one who is hospitalized, your ability to visit them will be limited, or perhaps completely curtailed. One hospital that we know of is not allowing in any visitors for fear that they could unwittingly bring in the virus, which is highly contagious, and expose those hospitalized – the most vulnerable – as well as medical providers.
These are difficult and unprecedented times. Our actions in regard to health care impact many people given the lack of beds, resources, and providers. We are all in this together. The health care system is going to be strained to its limit and we all will be impacted in one way or another.
Stay healthy and be well.
HELP WHEN THE UNIMAGINABLE HAPPENS
Our attorneys at the Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Firm have a breadth of experience in claims involving civil rights violations, medical malpractice, and personal injury. If you or a loved one has been injured, contact us today to discuss your legal options. Let our family help yours.