St. Vincent's closing causes 'patient tsunami' at other ERs

Manhattan hospitals have been deluged by a flood of patients since last April's closing of St. Vincent's Hospital in Greenwich Village, the New York Daily News reports.

Bellevue Hospital's chief of emergency medicine, Dr. Lewis Goldfrank, described St. Vincent's closure as "a significant disaster" for emergency care. The facility saw ER visits jump 25 percent to 10,000 a month from an average 8,000. And the number of patients brought by ambulance rose by 40 percent, if one compares the number of patients that came in September with the month before St. Vincent's closed its doors.

An 87-year-old man who broke his arm and was waiting for his X-ray results called the scene at the Bellevue ER "chaos."

With St. Vincent's closure, Bellevue became the only Level 1 trauma center in lower Manhattan. Its already stressed out doctors and nurses now are forced to care for more victims of shootings, car crashes and falls. What's more, the crowding has led to more patients assaulting medical staff and threatening other patients who were lying too close to them, Goldfrank said.

Beth Israel Medical Center's 70-bed ER has seen a 25 to 30 percent boost in ER traffic since April. The number of daily ambulances has jumped more than 50 percent to 75.

Beth Israel has taken steps to absorb the stream of new patients by adding more beds, opening at least five more nursing units and having trained premeds write up patient charts while doctors provide hands-on care.

According to Dr. Gregg Husk, Beth Israel's chairman of emergency medicine, the hospital was able to manage the patient "tsunami," because it had gotten practice in 2008, when Cabrini Hospital closed. Beth Israel wasn't "a virgin" so far as the challenges posed when a hospital closes, he said. "Although it's stressful, it has felt more like a transition than a disaster," he said.

To learn more:
- read the DNA Info article
- here's the New York Daily News article

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