Like many hospitals in New York City, the Brooklyn Hospital Center is straining under the biggest surge of Covid-19 patients since spring 2020, when ambulance sirens filled the air and more than 20,000 New York City residents died.
The patients keep arriving, and in droves: More than 15,000 people with Covid-19 have been hospitalized in the city in the past four weeks, the most since the initial surge.
About half of all patients in the city’s hospitals now have Covid-19.
And there are simply not enough nurses to care for them all. Across New York, hospitals generally employ fewer nurses than they did at the start of the pandemic, according to the New York State Nurses Association, a union.
Some nurses, burned out by stress, have left the profession; others have taken traveling nurse jobs at considerably higher pay. And the Omicron variant’s extreme infectiousness has meant many are out sick or in isolation on any given day.
The strain is especially acute at the Brooklyn Hospital Center, a safety-net hospital in Downtown Brooklyn, where patients tend to be working-class or poor.
Dr. Sylvie de Souza, who runs the Brooklyn Hospital Center’s emergency room, said she had enough doctors but had never had so few nurses. Some days, she had only three-quarters of the nurses she needed.
“During the first wave we were able-bodied,” she said. “But now we’re exhausted and many are ill.”
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