More than 900 staffers at New York City’s public hospital system have tested positive for the coronavirus and 3,000 have called in sick — revealing how the COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged front-line medical workers as well as patients, according to new data released Wednesday.
“Our brave essential health care workers continue to go above and beyond to keep New Yorkers safe at our hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes. Every day and night they come to work and dedicate themselves to their patient’s care, treatment, and support,” Health + Hospitals, which runs the city’s network of 11 public hospitals and long-term care facilities and clinics said in a prepared statement.
“These are understandably frightening times, and we are all pulling together so that we can save more New Yorkers,” the statement said. The Health + Hospitals workforce fluctuates between 39,000 and 45,000 workers.
Unlike the police and fire departments, Health + Hospitals has been slow to release statistics regarding the number of workers calling in sick or who’ve tested positive for coronavirus.
The number of hospital workers infected with COVID, if anything, is likely unlikely undercounted and the city has only just begun regular testing of its health care workers for the coronavirus.
Testing began last week for hospital employees who have no symptoms and are providing direct care to coronavirus patients.
Hospital workers, beginning Wednesday, can be tested if they show no symptoms but have family members at home who are infected with COVID-19.
Testing is open for all health care workers beginning April 22.
The pandemic has stretched medical staff performing heroic work treating patients under stressful and hazardous conditions thin — putting hospitals in an unenviable position.
Doctors and nurses regularly exposed to the coronavirus are getting sick. But hospitals risk being short-handed staff if too many workers are absent or test positive and can’t work.
But a heavy-handed memo put out last week by Health + Hospitals — that suggested workers at some facilities might be taking advantage of the epidemic because there are “very high rates of call outs and absences that do not appear to be consistent with patterns of COVID infection” — enraged some nurses and other medical staff.
The memo said workers have to provide a doctor’s note or documentation that they had COVID-19 or another illness to justify taking paid sick time.
More than 11,000 New Yorkers statewide have died from the coronavirus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.