April 8, 2020


STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The Advance/SILive received an exclusive look inside South Beach Psychiatric Center’s emergency coronavirus (COVID-19) hospital on Wednesday.

Housed in the state facility’s new, unopened five-story building — the emergency hospital began accepting patients Tuesday after a coordinated effort among the office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Army National Guard, and Northwell Health, which owns Staten Island University Hospital.

While the facility seems like an obvious choice for a temporary hospital being just yards away from SIUH’s Ocean Breeze campus, the system’s Executive Director Dr. Brahim Ardolic said work was needed to make it ready for patients suffering from COVID-19.

“It’s a really well-setup psychiatric hospital that hadn’t had anything else done to it,” Ardolic said. “We essentially had to recreate a small hospital setting in each unit.”

Ardolic said the facility’s existing beds were not fit for medical care, so appropriate beds needed to be brought in along with oxygen machines.

“For the most part, this is an inpatient floor (of the hospital),” Ardolic said. “Instead of being just an elevator ride away, it happens to be an ambulance and an elevator ride away.”

Staffing at the emergency hospital is being handled by Northwell as they take from their hospital systems across the state to ensure adequate levels, the organization’s CEO, Michael Dowling, said adding that the organization has adequate levels of personal protective equipment.

He said Northwell’s focus has been on where to put appropriate staff as it works to combat the virus across the state.

“There are multiple locations like this that we’re involved in,” he said. “It’s not just about moving any staff from one place to the other. It’s about moving the right staff with the right skill level with the ability to train people, so they can do what they need to do.”

Due to safety concerns, the Advance’s tour of the emergency facility did not include the wing of the building housing seven of the Island’s more-than 550 hospitalized coronavirus patients. Officials said the emergency hospital will not be able to accommodate patients in need of ventilators.

Currently, SIUH’s ICU is operating at 320% capacity, and many beds at the main hospital have been converted to meet ICU needs. SIUH Medical Director Dr. Theodore Maniatis said the focus of the emergency hospital will be freeing up space at the system’s main sites.

“Those other two buildings are essentially two big intensive care units, so we’re trying to decant as many stable patients as we can to a facility like this,” he said.

In the event that a patient at the emergency hospital needs a ventilator, they will be transferred back to SIUH’s main hospital, Dowling said. Ardolic added there is an ambulance at the emergency hospital 24/7 that will be able to transport patients if needed.

“To have that failsafe allows you to be a little more flexible about who you actually take,” Ardolic said.

Rep. Max Rose (D-Staten Island/South Brooklyn) has been working to help set up the hospital in his role as a captain with the National Guard, which is overseeing the hospital’s logistical operations.

Rose described the emergency hospital as an expansion to the existing SIUH campus in Ocean Breeze that will be integrated into the broader Northwell system.

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