Twenty-two nurses from Upstate University Hospital volunteered to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic in one of the hardest-hit areas. They left Thursday morning and went straight to Stony Brook University Hospital on Long Island.
For two weeks, they will be assisting in the intensive care units where patients are on ventilators and the emergency department.
"They have more patients seeking care than they are able to provide care for whereas here right now, we have more hospital beds than are needed,” said Nancy Page, Upstate University Hospital’s chief nursing officer. "This is where you share with your friends in the profession, and that's exactly what the Syracuse area is doing.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is building a 1,000-bed field hospital on the Long Island campus to help with the surge of COVID-19 patients at its existing hospital.
In Central New York, the hospitals are unusually empty. Elective surgeries have been canceled. Last week, Upstate University Hospital leaders began making plans for nurses to help downstate.
Jessica Falgiatano, a mother of four, will be leaving her family to help respond to the pandemic. She felt compelled to help, she said, but got her children’s permission before agreeing.
"We've been training for weeks and then there's nothing,” said Falgiatano, a pediatric ICU nurse at Upstate. “Then you hear the stories about our colleagues downstate who are struggling and barely treading water, and it makes you feel really useless and like you just want to help. So to me, it just seemed like a no-brainer.”
Upstate is sending the nurses with PPE. Food and lodging will be provided. More than 3,000 nurses will remain at Upstate Hospital to aid patients suffering from COVID-19.
The nurses had a send-off with a big show of support and gratitude.
"Law enforcement always stands with our medical community," said Upstate University Police Chief D. Paul Waltz.
"We're really just doing our job," said nurse Emery House. "I mean I appreciate that so many people view us as heroes, but in that stance, there are a lot of people out there who are also heroes, going out there and doing their job every day."
The nurses were welcomed at Stony Brook University Hospital on Thursday afternoon.