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Northwell moves 44 COVID-19 patients from Queens and western Nassau to Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson

John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson

John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson is now at capacity for coronavirus patients.   Credit: Heather Walsh

Northwell Health has transferred 44 COVID-19 patients from its hospitals in Queens and western Nassau County to Mather Hospital in Suffolk County over the past week, where the Port Jefferson hospital is now at capacity, officials said.

Northwell spokesman Terry Lynam confirmed the transfers within the hospital’s network of 19 hospitals that include facilities in Manhattan, Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk.

He said Northwell had transferred a total of 269 patients from Long Island Jewish Medical Center Forest Hills and Long Island Jewish Medical Center Valley Stream over the past week as part of “load balancing,” to lessen the strain at the hospitals hardest hit with coronavirus patients.

Of those 269, Northwell transferred 44 to Mather, with the moves roughly split between the Forest Hills and Valley Stream hospitals, Lynam said.

Lynam said other patients are being sent to North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, Lenox Hill in Manhattan and Staten Island University Hospital.

"Most of our hospitals are coming up on capacity, so we are looking everywhere to create more space," he said. "That includes conference rooms, tents and lobbies."

Northwell said it was caring for about 2,800 COVID-19 patients as of Thursday morning. “We’re trying to move patients from hospitals at near or over capacity to hospitals that have available space,” Lynam said in an interview.

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He said that as of Wednesday morning Mather was at capacity and wouldn’t take more transfers.

The 248-bed community teaching hospital has a primary service area consisting of most of the Town of Brookhaven. The 248 licensed beds include 195 medical surgical beds, 37 for behavioral health and 16 for its transitional care unit, a short-term nursing and rehab unit, according to Mather spokesman Stuart Vincent. Mather has 20 critical-care beds.

Responding to the question of whether Long Island hospitals will have sufficient capacity as COVID-19 hospitalizations rise, Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine said in a statement:

“While this is of concern to me, we are all in this together and we all have to help to win this fight against this virus. Hopefully, the Department of Health and hospital officials will maintain strong oversight of this so that this does not overtax the COVID response in Suffolk County and Brookhaven Town.”

Northwell’s eastern Queens and western Nassau facilities “have been at the epicenter in our service area of the pandemic. There’s a huge volume of patients coming in,” Lynam said.

Asked whether local resources would be available when needed, he said: “We have surge capacity plans in place for all of our hospitals. We’re in the middle of a pandemic. In a crisis like this, we identify all resources to respond. That’s what we’re doing right now.” He added that Mather staff “has been exemplary taking in additional cases.”

The state health department did not immediately comment.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in his Wednesday news briefing confirmed a media report in the Albany Times-Union that some New York City patients had been transferred to Albany.

But he described it as a “one-off” and said patient transfers would be coordinated by the state.

He allowed, though, that patients could be moved from city hospitals to other facilities, including on Long Island, as hospitals in the city fill up. He said Long Island patients could be moved upstate when they fill up.

“We are one state,” he said.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone in a statement, said "As the Governor said, this is purely a capacity and systems management issue, which is why we are working collectively to address this crisis on a statewide basis. We are in constant communication with our hospitals and supporting their expansion efforts while doing everything possible to assist the state in implementing its battle plan.”

Lynam said that despite the shortage of capacity at Mather, no patients are being discharged who couldn’t recuperate at home.

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