‘We’ve never seen something like it’: NYC Health + Hospitals Queens medical director answers coronavirus questions

dr. moshirpur
Photo courtesy of Dr. Jasmin Moshirpur

Dr. Jasmin Moshirpur is the dean and medical director at NYC Health + Hospitals in Queens, including Elmhurst Hospital and Queens Hospital.

Dr. Moshirpur has been in practice for more than 50 years and has worked through AIDS, 9/11, Ebola and countless other pathogens, but told QNS she’s never seen anything like the COVID-19 crisis.

Elmhurst Hospital became the epicenter of New York City’s COVID-19 health crisis just a week ago. Since then, the hospital’s leadership said they continue to receive the equipment they need, but as the number of confirmed cases continue to rise by the hundreds each day — with Corona, Jackson Heights, and Elmhurst seeing the majority of those numbers in the borough — the hospital is still in need of more space.

Below, Dr. Moshirpur answers some of QNS’ questions about the COVID-19 at Elmhurst Hospital:

How is Elmhurst Hospital currently dealing with the COVID-19 health emergency?

We turned the entire hospital into a COVID hospital. Everyday we have hundreds and hundreds of people walking in. It’s unbelievable. We do our best, and we’re getting a lot of help and a lot of equipment, thank God. We’re holding it together.

This disease, we’ve never seen something like it. It can just kill in a fraction of a second. Even the young people, they’re fighting half an hour, then their lungs stop working completely. That’s why ventilators are such an essential part of the treatment here.

Has the government responded to your needs?

This week, especially the last two days, we’re getting a lot of medical help. The doctors, nurse practitioners, PAs [Physician Assistants] and also equipment.

We’ve had two huge buses with doctors and nurses from other cities and states. They’re all staying in nearby hotels. There’s a lot of movement there and that’s how we’re surviving. Everybody is donating, the hotels are donating their rooms for free.

For example, I have a surgeon who came from Florida and she is staying in the Holiday Inn at LaGuardia.

They sent us more ventilators and we’re getting technicians to see how they work and train our staff.

So I’m not that tight with equipment now. I don’t know what will happen a week from now, but we’re also getting donations and access to COVID masks.

We are hoping this time it goes much better than when this started, we didn’t anticipate we would be bombed with patients like that. We had 150 patients with COVID in our emergency rooms, and there was no room or beds for them to get upstairs.

What are you doing with people who don’t have the coronavirus?

We shipped them to Mount Sinai [in Astoria], to other NYC Health + Hospitals that weren’t as busy as we were. We’ve gotten a lot of help, fortunately.

Why do you think you got hit more than Queens Hospital or the other hospitals in the borough?

The community knows Elmhurst Hospital more than other hospitals. But now, they’re all getting a lot of patients too.

What are you doing to use the space that you do have?

Elmhurst Hospital is opening more beds than Queens Hospital, even, because 300 beds isn’t enough. We’re turning some of the operating rooms, recovery rooms, some of the wards that are empty, we’re moving patients up and down.

We have two tents here and two at Queens Hospital.

How are you protecting yourself and your staff?

We’re making sure everybody wears masks when they’re in the hospital, but it should be the same even in supermarkets. Hand wash, hand wash, hand wash. Don’t touch your face.

We’re six feet apart when we’re talking, we’re eliminating all of our big gatherings like conferences and meetings, we’re just doing phone calls. We’re providing all the protection that we can for our staff.

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