Bay Ridge

Coronavirus cases are overwhelming Brooklyn’s VA hospital, nurses say

April 6, 2020 Mary Frost
Veterans hospitals, like the one in Bay Ridge, should be able to accept civilian patients during the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. Rep. Max Rose said. Photo: Paula Katinas/Brooklyn Eagle
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Nurses at the Brooklyn VA Medical Center say the Bay Ridge hospital is dangerously overloaded with COVID-19 patients and the system is near a breaking point.

RNs in the intensive care unit say they are trying to care for as many as five coronavirus patients at one time, when the standard is one or two. Patients on ventilators need constant monitoring, and ICU nurses must turn and clean patients as they are unable to so themselves.

Nurses also say that health care providers don’t have enough masks, gowns and other personal protective equipment.

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The nurses plan to hold a protest outside the hospital Monday evening during shift change, the National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United said in a statement.

“We are only able to provide the very basic level of care and it’s just subpar care to the patients with a five-to-one ratio,” said Maria Lobifaro, a registered nurse in the intensive care unit and a union steward. Lobifaro said she objected when she was pressured by management to care for a sixth intubated patient on a recent shift.

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs issued their coronavirus response plan in March.

The Brooklyn Eagle has reached out to the hospital for comment on the situation.

In March, the VA directed that New York City veterans who need hospitalization with the novel coronavirus be sent to the Brooklyn VA. Max Rose, a member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, had urged the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to drastically increase capacity at the medical center.

“With the Brooklyn VA preparing to be the central treatment center for New York City veterans who contract the coronavirus, we need to make sure that the facility is fully prepared for the influx,” he said in March.

VA New York Harbor announced last month it would open 50 beds to non-veterans after Rose urged hospitals to begin accepting civilian patients.

According to the VA’s coronavirus webpage, The Brooklyn VA Medical Center as of Sunday, April 5, was caring for 85 inpatient and 115 outpatient COVID-19 patients. The Bronx VA center had 38 inpatient and 126 outpatient COVID-19 cases.

The VA said in 2017 it would be the eliminating full hospital services at the medical center — a move that was squelched after political intervention.

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