I visited *** Health Center in ***. They are not a hospital, more like an urgent care clinic funded by the city and state. They act as triage for three area hospitals, take vital signs, can write prescriptions and send serious cases to Hospital ERs. They have been overwhelmed with people worried about COVID-19…They had been testing people for the virus; they have run out of re-agent so they have stopped that….If they were provided with isolation beds and ventilators, could they take 20 patients? No, it is not in their license and an application to change their license takes two years. When NYC reaches maximum hospital capacity, this clinic will not be part of the solution.
I visited [underfunded public health consortium] in ***, which was at the forefront of the response to H1N1 in 2009 and Sandy in 2012. They typically see 150 ER patients a day; during H1N1 they averaged 350 at the peak; they think they will be over 1000 during COVID-19….There is no such thing as a “test kit” which tests for the virus; when people talk about those kits, such as those dropped onto that cruise ship, they are talking about a nasal swab packaged with some reagent, which is then mailed to a facility with a Polymerase Chain Reaction Machine that can look for the RNA from the virus.
You can find PCR machines on eBay for $25,000; such a machine is labor intensive and can do maybe 10 tests a day. The hospital complex I visited, which has been designated a testing center, has been swabbing about 200 people a day and receiving multiples of that number from other hospitals. The vast majority they are sending off to a federal lab. Two weeks ago the turnaround time was three days; now it is five to six.
There are much faster machines. The Roche Cobas 6800 can do 3000 tests a day with very little human interaction; it costs $500k a year to rent, which is way outside a poor hospitals’s budget (while still not providing sufficient testing for the receiving area in the coming months.) Outside their budget until today, when we gave that money (I specified first year only, though they should be sure to ask in a year) as part of a larger check. We also gave money for 10 transport ventilators with two ports, 20 isolation beds, the money to hire 14 nurses for round the clock coverage of those beds for 6 weeks, and other things that they need. Overall it was a $1 million check, with a promise to talk to them in a week to cover anything we might have missed and to talk to them whenever they ask during the crisis. Overall, I was pretty happy with the visit. They were stunned, they work in a bureaucracy where everything takes 3 years.
One thing that they can’t get enough of is N-95s [face masks]. The first thing that almost every doctor I talked to mentioned was the frustration at having to re-use N-95’s, not for multiple patients, but for multiple days.
Again, here are the Emergent Ventures prizes to encourage work to support work to fight the coronavirus, and please support them if you can.