Update From Hatlah of Boro Park: A conversation with coordinator Hertzka Halpert

We’ve been hearing the situation has improved since Pesach. Are you seeing that on the front lines?
The call volume for new cases has, baruch Hashem, dropped significantly. But there are still many patients at home who need yeshuos and even more in the hospitals in critical condition.

Last time we spoke, you said that the call volume was up 250%. What are the numbers now?
Call volume is almost back to the usual amount, but a larger percentage of calls are still COVID-19-related calls.

Is it true the Hatzalah is advising patients to stay out of the hospitals and is providing medical care at home?
During the height of the crisis, the hospitals were overwhelmed. Any patient who could be cared for at home with supplemental oxygen and physician oversight was better off staying home.

Are there any specific hospitals that Hatzalah recommends?
Hospital destinations changed literally every few hours, based on many factors, but primarily ICU bed capacities.

Have you seen any hospitals giving preferential treatment to younger and healthier people, as opposed to the elderly or people with health issues?
We did not see that.

There have been horror stories regarding hospital patients not receiving food, and that these patients were literally starving. Can you confirm this?
Unfortunately, it is true. Many hospitals failed in this regard. Some improved, and some created a system allowing families to drop off food for their family member, but some are still failing.

Is it true that Hatzalah is no
longer transporting people to Maimonides Hospital?
Throughout this entire crisis, we’re monitoring the emergency rooms and the ICU bed capacities at the various hospitals, in real time. We make transport destination decisions based on that, and it changes almost hourly. All of the hospitals were overwhelmed and unprepared, to say the least. Communication, food and other systems broke down in various degrees all over. But some hospitals definitely did a better job than others.

How should the community be conducting themselves now that things are getting better?
The doctors and medical board of Hatzalah are advising everyone not to be complacent at this time. They are concerned about a new wave of infections since it’s not clear if there’s immunity yet, as well the possibility or those who have been quarantined all this time to contract the virus.

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