Beginning in early March 2020, Westchester County and the Yonkers community began to experience cases of SARS-CoV2 infection which quickly escalated to pandemic levels. St. John’s Riverside Hospital became one of the main hospitals responsible for treatment of those infected. The ACGME placed St. John’s Riverside Hospital and the residency program on Stage 3: Pandemic Emergency Status beginning at the onset of a surge in local cases in mid-March and continuing until May 23rd as the peak infections finally declined and a more routine schedule resumed.
Internal Medicine residents were among the many health care providers who stepped up to the challenge of providing care during this critical time. They worked diligently as the hospital’s capacity expanded from the usual 142 beds to a peak of 200 beds. As severity of illness was also high, the intensive care unit (ICU) expanded from a 12 beds to 55 critical care level beds, with many patients requiring advanced respiratory support. During the pandemic period, St. John’s provided novel therapies via participation in medical trials established at the Mayo Clinic using convalescent plasma as well as infusion therapy with the antiviral medication Remdesevir. Many residents also provided vital information by addressing questions and concerns and offering medical guidance and counselling to patients and community members by staffing a hospital-based Command Center hotline.
Throughout the process, hospital administration, the medical education department and all faculty and physicians remained committed to safeguarding the residents’ physical and mental well-being. Adherence to work hour requirements was consistently maintained in accordance with the ACGME, and scheduling was established to maximize the opportunity for residents to rest and recuperate. Additionally, policies and protocols were established and communicated to all residents that prioritized the health and safety of patients and physicians alike. At all times, the residents in both the Internal Medicine and Emergency Medicine programs were provided with adequate personal protective equipment. Various hospital initiatives, including several led by residents, continuously obtained protective equipment to ensure safety. In addition, the local community served by St. John’s Riverside Hospital demonstrated a strong show of support as many individuals generously donated medical supplies including goggles and masks. With minimal disruption, the educational curriculum and didactics were transitioned from in person meetings to video based lectures and conferences moderated by the faculty.
At present, the local rate of SARS-CoV2 infection rate has significantly declined thanks to the adoption of appropriate mask use and social distancing policies. St. John’s Riverside Hospital and the residency programs remain vigilant and prepared to continue to provide optimal and compassionate care in the event of a recurrence of SARS-CoV2 illness in the community.