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Press Releases

NYC Health + Hospitals Re-engineers Emergency Departments and Clinics Across Its System to Provide Safe Care After Covid-19 Surge

11 EDs will undergo physical changes to maximize distance between patients in waiting rooms and care areas; new spaces for isolation and negative pressure rooms will be created to help protect from infections like COVID-19

Out-patient clinics will increase their capacity of limited in-person care visits across the system; most appointments will be handled via telehealth visits

Operating departments will increase capacity to perform a higher number of scheduled medically necessary surgeries for existing patients

Jun 22, 2020

New York, NY

NYC Health + Hospitals today announced the re-engineering of Emergency Departments (EDs) and out-patient care clinics that will provide New Yorkers with safe care after the COVID-19 surge. The public health system’s 11 EDs will undergo physical changes to maximize distance between patients in waiting rooms and care areas, as well as create new spaces for isolation and negative pressure rooms to help protect from infections like COVID-19. Adapting similar physical changes, out-patient care clinics will also increase their capacity to offer safe in-person care visits across the system’s 11 hospitals and 30 Gotham Health sites. Most appointments will still be offered and encouraged over televisits, which the system quickly ramped-up access to during the initial weeks of COVID to make sure New Yorkers were accessing the care they needed when they need it – and from the comfort of their home. Operating departments across the public health system’s 11 hospitals will also increase capacity to perform more scheduled medically necessary surgeries for existing patients. To ensure everyone’s safety, physical care spaces will also implement a number of safety protocols, including mandatory temperature and symptom checks for all patients, visitors and staff upon arrival, the requirement of face masks to be worn by all, updated signage to remind everyone of social distancing, and more.

“The City’s public health system is committed now more than ever to provide the care New Yorkers need in the safest, most innovative way possible in order to build a stronger shield to help protect against threats like the horrific and deadly pandemic we’ve all experienced,” said NYC Health + Hospitals Chief Medical Officer Machelle Allen, MD. “The City’s public health system remains committed to its mission of providing care to everyone regardless of ability to pay or immigration status. Our priority will always be the health and wellness of our neighbors and colleagues, utilizing every resource and available technology to reach you where it’s safest.”

“While the COVID-19 pandemic was challenging for all New Yorkers and, clinicians, and hospital staff, we emerge stronger and better prepared to provide the safest ongoing and emergency care to all our neighbors,” said NYC Health + Hospitals Vice President and Chief Quality Officer Eric Wei, MBA, MD. “No one should ever be worried of becoming ill or risking their life when seeking the health care they need and deserve. NYC Health + Hospitals stands ready to build a stronger, healthier you as we continue our work against this pandemic.”

NYC Health + Hospitals is urging all New Yorkers to seek the care they need and deserve, and stands ready to care for all patients safely and effectively whether they are existing patients or new to the system needing ongoing, preventative or emergency care. The system cares for New Yorkers who really cannot delay care such as those with chronic disease or children who need vaccinations to help build stronger immune systems.

Patients in need of in-person appointments or who are seeking emergency care, will experience a new, safer patient environment that includes:

  • Requiring all patients over the age of two and visitors to wear face masks, and encouraging the use of gloves (which will be offered);
  • Mandatory temperature and symptom check for all patients and visitors;
  • Prompt triage and isolation of any person presenting with fever for further evaluation;
  • Redesigned waiting rooms, floor decals, and updated signage to ensure social distancing;
  • Plexiglas sneeze guards that have been installed at all registration and welcome areas;
  • Reserved early-morning appointments for elderly patients and those who are immunocompromised at some clinics.

“It is imperative now more than ever to ensure our patients and communities have the safest access to health care,” said NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health CEO Michelle Lewis. “We are looking forward to welcoming our community members back to Gotham Health sites and continuing to provide high-quality, comprehensive, and affordable care where and how it’s safest for them.”

“NYC Health + Hospitals has been busy transforming our ambulatory clinics to welcome back our patients into the safest environment possible as we continue to fight against the COVID-19 threat,” said NYC Health + Hospitals Ambulatory Care Chief Medical Officer Andrew B. Wallach, MD. “Taking care of your health is now more important than ever, and our nurses, doctors, social workers, and staff are here to make sure patients and communities have the access to the right care in the safest setting.”

NYC Health + Hospitals is offering New Yorkers new patient care services to ensure safety while not compromising quality or comprehensive care. The system is offering the following methods of engaging with care teams:

  • Telemedicine: Offering primary care and over 90 specialty care services, all patients now have the option to access care from their home through a phone or tablet when it’s clinically safe to do so. Phone and video visits offer a safe alternative for many patients. Emergency care patients will also experience telemedicine during their ED visit by being greeted by a provider over video to screen for COVID-like symptoms and prompt isolation as necessary. The City’s public health system was able to quickly scale up its telemedicine services, going from just 500 billable virtual visits in the month prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, up to nearly 57,000 in the first three weeks of the pandemic, and over 300,000 televisits through May.
  • Technology in EDs: Emergency care patients will also experience more technology during their ED visits by incorporating videoconferencing technologies to provide initial patient assessments in triage and isolation rooms. This will limit interactions within six feet to necessary physical exams and procedures to further reduce risk of virus transmission.
  • FastCheck Visits: Nearly launched to address the new in-person limitations, this form of visit will offer patients a fast and safe way to have their vitals checked or lab-work done on a day prior to or after a telehealth visit. Patients will be instructed on when and what in-person clinic they should report to for their in-patient visit. These FastCheck visits will take approximately 15 minutes and will avoid prolonged exposure to COVID-19.
  • Patient Portal: Patients will be encouraged to utilize MyChart, the system’s electronic patient portal that allows existing patients to contact their care teams with health updates and questions that further avoid in-patient visits but ensure patients’ concerns are addressed. MyChart will also allow patients to prepare for their appointments online. A few days before their appointment, patients will be able to update their contact information, insurance, preferred pharmacy, and other clinical information.

In-person primary care appointments will prioritize patients who require a physical examination or ancillary services that cannot be accomplished by a televisit. This includes some Orthopedic and Ophthalmologic visits, as well as lab-work and diagnostic testing.

All staff and providers have been trained in the correct way to put-on and remove personal protective equipment (PPE) that is now required during all patient interactions. All staff will be required to wear a surgical mask. In addition, all providers will be required to wear a face shield, gloves (to be changed between each patient), and gowns for prolonged contact or when handling fluids. Each facility and clinic space will have clear signs that remind staff and patients of proper PPE use depending on what care activities are taking place.

NYC Health + Hospitals will continue to offer financial counseling services over the phone, so one’s ability to pay is never a barrier to care. NYC Health + Hospitals’ financial counselors provide health insurance guidance and enroll eligible patients in programs like NYC Care. In addition, our social workers and care coordinators can meet with patients over the phone or in-person to discuss any social needs. NYC Health + Hospitals “whole person” approach to health care remains a priority during this pandemic.

NYC Health + Hospitals is committed to providing care to all New Yorkers regardless of ability to pay or immigration status with options for low- to no-cost health care. Financial counseling is available for everyone without health insurance to access low-cost insurance or register in the NYC Care health care access program.

To make an appointment or find a doctor, please call 844-NYC-4NYC. For more information on how NYC Health + Hospitals is ensuring patient safety during care appointments, visit this site.