Probe finds NYC’s hospital system cost lives because it wasn’t ready for COVID-19

Probe finds NYC’s hospital system cost lives because it wasn’t ready for COVID-19

Unpreparedness and disorganization at the city’s 11 public hospitals cost lives during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report by Comptroller Scott Stringer.

“This review found that NYC Health + Hospitals, and the larger system within which it has operated during the pandemic, faced an unprecedented situation for which no one was fully prepared. The lack of preparedness forced all players to improvise responses, sometimes successfully, sometimes not — but inevitably at a cost in human lives,” Stringer wrote Friday to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who had ordered the review on March 29.

The virus has killed over 23,000 city residents since March.

“Several deficiencies were noted, including inadequate access to needed supplies and equipment, a lack of systems and procedures for managing patient loads across hospitals, and insufficient protocols for deploying staff,” Stringer wrote.

Stringer said the findings were preliminary, and he expects to issue a fuller report after receiving additional documents from the city.

The initial review found that despite several planning exercises, city hospitals didn’t stockpile enough personal protective equipment or ventilators because of limited capacity and funds.

The probe also concludes that the public health system was too slow to expand hospital beds and transfer staff as the number of coronavirus patients surged.

“At the outset of the crisis, the existing systems were not equipped to handle the need and volume,” Stringer said.

H+H also took too long to centralize the procurement and distribution of personal protective gear, he wrote.

The hospital system eventually streamlined both processes. The federal government complicated the situation with “insufficient and conflicting guidance,” Stringer said.

Lastly, Stringer’s report urged local officials to “address the underlying inequities in access to health care that both directly resulted in a disproportionately high death toll among the city’s most vulnerable populations.”

“As of mid-May, the age-adjusted death rate was twice as high for Black and Hispanic New Yorkers than for the City’s white and Asian population. H+H’s outsized role in providing care to these vulnerable City residents most severely impacted by COVID-19 is frustrated by its lack of resources and financing,” Stringer wrote.

H+H spokeswoman Stephanie M. Guzmán defended the agency’s performance.

“Throughout this crisis, we acted as a system, coordinating across facilities and with our central office. Lives were saved across our city at the virus’s peak thanks to the heroic efforts of our staff, who tripled and quadrupled, ICU capacity, surged resources and personnel, and even came to the aid of our city’s private hospitals in their times of dire needs,” Guzmán said.

A rep for Cuomo applauded Stringer for the investigation and promised to review the findings.

“We commend the comptroller for undertaking this effort, we will review these preliminary findings, and look forward to his final conclusions,” Cuomo aide Rich Azzopardi told The Post.

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