AT SIUH’S POST-COVID RECOVERY CENTER, VITAL EFFORTS ARE BEING MADE TO PREDICT AND BATTLE SECONDARY SURGES OF THE VIRUS
BY JESSICA JONES-GORMAN • PHOTOS BY AMESSE PHOTOGRAPHY
When COVID-19 surged in Staten Island this past April, hospitalizing more than 500 borough residents and infecting numerous others, Dr. Thomas Gut and his ambulatory care staff at Staten Island University Hospital’s MAP Clinic hit the ground running. Employing stringent new procedures for PPE usage and putting into practice a bevy of new protocols, the highly trained team of medical professionals faced the anomalous virus head on, battling every challenge that accompanied it. Treating each patient with innovative care and cheering as the most severe coronavirus victims were released after months of treatment, SIUH’S COVID response team rallied in the face of adversity. And today, Dr. Gut is leading efforts to combat secondary surges of the virus employing prediction tools and continuing to offer state-of-the-art care in the hospital’s Post-COVID Recovery Center.
“In the early stages of the virus we did not know how bad COVID would get and what would be needed to combat it,” noted Dr. Gut, speaking of the initial and most dramatic surge of the virus which took the country and New York City by storm. “Other local clinics were closing, leaving patients to exclusively seek care at Staten Island hospitals, so we essentially packaged up all of our doctors and deployed them where they were needed. We pooled all of our resources and transformed our acute rehab into a COVID floor.”
Reserving the area for patients with moderate to severe cases of the virus, Dr. Gut and staff worked to equip the unit with additional beds and ventilators. They filled the floor with all of the necessary IVs and medicines; doctors and staffers volunteered to tackle extra shifts and work longer hours.
“Transitioning back to that side of medicine was not particularly difficult but nothing could prepare us for a virus like COVID,” noted Dr. Gut, describing a return to his internal medicine roots. “So we basically started from scratch and learned together how to medically care for these coronavirus patients. Gradually there was a decline and we were able to find some stability.”
Calling Staten Island “fortunate” compared to other boroughs in terms of the outbreak, Dr. Gut also credited Northwell Health with an exceptional level of preparedness.
“Compared to other boroughs we were very lucky,” noted Dr. Gut. “But I think some of that luck can be attributed to Northwell’s resources. The hospital system supplied us with all of the proper safety equipment and brought in necessary ventilators from other departments. Staff and providers from other, less affected institutions on Long Island arrived to help us shore the dam. We pooled all of our resources from every part of the Northwell system to combat this illness. Other more isolated hospital networks were not as fortunate as SIUH.”
Dr. Gut, who has worked in various departments of SIUH for the past five years as a hospitalist, used his background as the hospital’s director of ambulatory care services to best serve patients afflicted with COVID.
“We prepared very well for the first wave in an extremely limited amount of time,” he said. “We’ve spent the past several months thinking about and planning for a second and even a third wave, and I think we are very ready and prepared. Plans are in place and we have more resources and space than before. The doctors here at SIUH are in a good position to take on whatever peaks we might see.”
But Dr. Gut, who also serves as assistant director of the hospital’s internal medicine residency and is an assistant professor of medicine at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, is optimistic about what the next few months will bring.
“New York City was hit so hard and so quickly during the first round of this virus; I’m hopeful that we will only witness a small second peak. I do believe there will be small pockets of fire to put out, little outbursts of the virus here and there that will need our attention, but we are ready for that.”
Still, the doctor said Staten Island residents need to be vigilant about protecting themselves from the spread of the virus.
“Keep your masks on and stay home whenever possible. Maintain that six-feet-apart rule at all times and be sure to wash your hands regularly. All of those standard precautions have to remain in place in order for us to defeat this virus.”
Social distancing has worked wonders in controlling the spread, Dr. Gut added, noting that the act of staying apart will also help combat other viruses like the cold and flu. And through SIUH’s Post-COVID Recovery Center, Dr. Gut is helping to spread knowledge about the coronavirus treatments that best served Staten Island residents.
“Why here, why us?” he asked rhetorically, referring to why SIUH and Northwell Health are currently viewed as a command center for this virus. “Because New York was the worst hit place on the planet and Northwell was the hospital system most impacted by COVID. We have the most experience with this virus and have seen things that other states have not gone through yet. Six months ago COVID was something we were just hearing about overseas; a year ago it didn’t exist. Now, here at Northwell we have a great wealth of knowledge and great resources to take on future cases. It is our responsibility to share that knowledge and pass it on.”
SIUH Post-COVID Recovery Center
500 Seaview Avenue, Suite
103 718.226.6494 / SIUHPCRC@northwell.edu