‘The conditions are grave’: Queens councilman sends letter to Trump requesting much-needed resources for Elmhurst Hospital

Photo by Michael Shain

Queens Councilman Francisco Moya and Manhattan Councilwoman Carlina Rivera are urging President Donald Trump and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to send hospital beds, ventilators and the intensive care staff needed to operate them to NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst immediately.

Moya and Rivera, chair of the Council’s Committee on Hospitals, sent a letter to Trump and HHS on March 26, as reports of an overwhelmed Elmhurst Hospital continue to mount.

“The conditions at Elmhurst and Queens Hospitals are grave,” their letter reads. “A recent spate of news reports provides a glimpse of the dire scenes front line health care workers are experiencing. COVID-19 patients are dying because the hospital does not have the resources to treat them.”

Queens Patch first reported that the hospital is running at “more than 125 percent capacity compared to its typical 80 percent capacity rate” on Tuesday, March 24. THE CITY then reported that 13 people had died in a 24-hour period.

The New York Times later shared a look inside the hospital as told by an Emergency Room doctor, who said they wanted to show how strained the hospital is due to a surge of patients with confirmed coronavirus cases and a lack of resources to treat them.

The doctor said they “want people to know that this is bad … people are dying.”

In Moya and Rivera’s letter, they note how Queens has the fewest hospital beds per capita compared to other boroughs — with just 1.66 beds per 1,000 people, according to a February report by the Queens borough president.

REUTERS/Stefan Jeremiah

They add that Queens only has two municipal hospitals while Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx have three. This isn’t offset by hospitals outside the municipal hospital system, including NYC Health + Hospitals locations, as Queens has just nine acute care facilities, while Manhattan has 20 and Brooklyn has 15.

Moya admits this is particularly personal to him as he was born in the Elmhurst Hospital and later worked there before representing it in his Council District 21.

“We have no doubt Elmhurst and Queens Hospitals’ award-winning staff can and will save lives, but they need the proper tools to do so,” the letter reads. “The longer these hospitals wait for resources, the more people will die in Queens. For many, it’s already too late.”

On Thursday night, Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Grace Meng sent a joint letter to Trump, adding their voices to the call for the president to prioritize transfer of personal protective equipment and ventilators from national stockpile to Elmhurst Hospital.

“We entreat you to promptly deploy immediate necessary resources to decrease the intensity and mitigate long-term harm of COVID-19,” Meng and Ocasio-Cortez wrote. “We urge you to address the needs required at Elmhurst Hospital.”

Trump questioned New York City’s need for 30,000 ventilators, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called for, in an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity on Thursday night.

“I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators,” Trump said. “You go into major hospitals sometimes and they’ll have two ventilators and now all of a sudden they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?’”

Queens Patch reported that as of Thursday morning, Elmhurst Hospital brought in 56 more workers and 40 additional ventilators, with 54 out of their 63 ventilators in use at the time.

Friday morning, Acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee addressed Trump’s claims.

“Just how many deaths must we suffer for you to believe us, Mr. President?” Lee stated. “Queens would like to know. Life and death is not a matter for negotiation. This is a race against time.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio said New York City has received “about 2,500 in the last week or so,” in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Friday.

“The state needs 30,000. The city needs 15,000. So, we’ve gotten something and I’m thankful for that, but it has to keep coming,” de Blasio added.

As of Friday morning, Queens has 7,362 confirmed cases and of COVID-19. New York City has approximately 23,112 confirmed cases in total and 365 deaths related to the virus.