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​University of Rochester Emergency Medicine team returns from helping in NYC

April 14, 2020
team of doctors and nurses in scrubs and masks.University of Rochester Medical Center health care providers join with Northwell Health staff at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens. (University of Rochester Medical Center photo)
Besides being eager to help overwhelmed colleagues downstate, the trip also offered local health care personnel a chance to gain valuable insights in their fight against the pandemic in the Greater Rochester area.

An Emergency Medicine team from the University of Rochester’s Strong Memorial Hospital has returned from the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City. The 14 team members—physicians, physician assistants, and registered nurses—arrived back in Rochester on Sunday, after supporting medical staff at Northwell Health’s North Shore University Hospital, on Long Island near the border with Queens, and Long Island Jewish Medical Center, in Queens, for nearly a week.

The trip was in part initiated in response to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s urgent plea for medical personnel to come to the help of stricken New York City, now the epicenter of the virus.

“We were thrilled to be able to go and pitch in, roll up our sleeves, and we couldn’t be more grateful to Northwell for allowing us to jump right in,” said Aekta Andrea Miglani, the medical director of Emergency Medicine at Strong Memorial Hospital.

doctor in scrubs and mask.

Flavia Nobay, professor of emergency medicine, gets ready for work at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. (University of Rochester Medical Center photo)

But it’s not just a one-way street. Besides being eager to help overwhelmed colleagues downstate, the trip also offered local health care personnel a chance to gain valuable insights in their fight against the pandemic in the Greater Rochester area.

“One of the basic take-home messages we had was that we’re right on track in terms of our preparing for our own community,” Miglani said. “URMC has done a phenomenal job of really learning from all the places that have been hit very hard, very quickly—and taking that knowledge into account and planning ahead since we potentially have that little bit of lead time. We’ll be able to better serve our community if we get that type of a surge.”

Wendy Allen-Thompson, the director of nursing at Strong Memorial’s Department of Emergency Medicine, called the stint “an enlightening experience” and a “beautiful show of teamwork.”

“It was amazing how everyone rose up to meet the increased demands,” Allen-Thompson said. Northwell used technology to connect patients with loved ones who couldn’t be in the hospital with them, a practice that the Medical Center already has implemented by handing out iPads to patients for face-to-face calls with loved ones.

Medical Center staff told reporters during a zoom press conference that their colleagues at Northwell Health had sufficient personal protective equipment—referred to by the acronym PPE—and had found ways to make it last longer, if necessary.

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“At no time was anyone ever without PPE, nor were they denied any PPE,” confirmed Allen-Thompson.

But they did not sugar coat the situation on the ground. “All the spaces that they had available to see patients were full much of the time, and the acuity level of the patients—the degree of their illness—was very high,” said Jesse Shuff, a physician assistant in Emergency Medicine, who also went on the trip.

Having experienced the dire situation in New York City firsthand, Miglani is unequivocal when it comes to the need for everyone to continue social distancing.

“I cannot stress enough how important this is for every member of our society, and for every member of our community to be looking out for each other and maintaining those social distancing practices,” Miglani said. “You may not know a loved one who’s older, or at risk, or immuno-compromised—but one of your friends does. That’s the people we are doing this for.”

Meanwhile, a second 14-person group of UR Medicine personnel remains in New York City continuing to help in the fight against the virus.

“We are reaping the benefits of social distancing here in the Rochester area,” Miglani added.


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