Coronavirus Is Forcing Hundreds of People in New York City to Give Birth Alone

"We understand that this will be difficult for our patients and their loved ones, but we believe that this is a necessary step to promote patient safety."
March 23, 2020, 1:32pm
new york presbyterian hospital birth coronavirus

A top New York hospital will no longer allow the “birthing partners and support persons” of people giving birth to visit them, due to fears about the spread of coronavirus.

New York-Presbyterian, a seven-campus system that has a combined 2,600 beds and over 20,000 employees, and sees more than 2 million visits a year, announced the decision in a tweet on Saturday.

"With our focus on the best interests of our new mothers and children, we have made the decision not to permit visitors, including birthing partners and support persons, for our obstetric patients," the hospital said. "We understand that this will be difficult for our patients and their loved ones, but we believe that this is a necessary step to promote patient safety."

The state of New York so far has 5% of the world's coronavirus cases, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday, making it the center of the epidemic in the United States. As of Sunday night, the number of cases had jumped to nearly 17,000, with a hospitalization rate of about 13%, Cuomo said.

READ: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is urging Trump to nationalize the production of masks and ventilators

New York-Presbyterian campuses delivered at least 17,015 children in 2017, an average of 327 children per week, according to New York state Department of Health data.

Last week, the state Department of Health advised all New York hospitals to suspend all visitation “except when medically necessary (i.e., visitor is essential to the care of the patient) or for family members or legal representatives of patients in imminent end-of-life situations.”

A Friday memo from Dr. Craig Smith, the chief surgeon at Columbia University Medical Center, an affiliate of New York-Presbyterian, said that projections estimated that the number of coronavirus cases in New York would peak in three to five weeks, and that the coming surge of patients could require up to 934 intensive care unit (ICU) beds.

READ: New York plans to convert Javits Center into a field hospital as coronavirus cases jump by thousands overnight

Smith also said that the New York-Presbyterian system was already using 40,000 non-N95 masks daily, 10 times the usual amount, and estimated the number would eventually reach 70,000 per day.

"Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to apologize profusely in a few weeks for having overestimated the threat," Smith wrote in the memo, which was later posted to Twitter. "The next month or two is a horror to imagine if we're underestimating the threat."

Cover: Medical personnel rub their hands as they leave the emergency room at New York-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital, Wednesday, March 18, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)