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Southside doctor documents his hospital’s ‘challenging’ battle against COVID-19

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Long Island has become a hotbed for the fatal novel coronavirus.

As of Tuesday morning, there were over 30,000 positive cases of COVID-19 on the island. While not all those with the infection need hospitalization, local medical facilities have become strained with a surge of patients, particularly in the intensive care units.

Jeffrey Zilberstein, a doctor from Bay Shore’s Southside Hospital, submitted a first-hand account of what he is seeing on the frontlines. This morning alone, Southside had 272 COVID-19 positive patients in the hospital. 

You can read what he and his staff is going through below.

Dr. Jeffrey Zilberstein

Southside Hospital’s Dr. Jeffrey Zilberstein |

As the vice chair of medicine and the director of the intensive care units (ICUs) at Southside Hospital, working during COVID-19 has been challenging. I think that’s the best way to put it. We keep getting more patients and since so many patients are very sick, they are having longer hospital stays. Given the number of patients we’re seeing with the virus, we have opened the neuro ICU, surgical ICU and cardiothoracic ICU to care for these patients. Each has a separate staff/team although we are all working to care for COVID-19 patients together.

Even given the large number of very sick patients that we’re caring for, I am inspired by our staff every day and am seeing examples of us being “truly together” (one of our values) on a daily basis. They are willing to help any way they can; often “running into the fire” very willingly. Cardiologists and nephrologists, for instance, are to helping me and my team care for our COVID-19 patients. I’m working with them in a capacity that makes the best use of their skills, supports the team and ultimately helps our patients.  

Every day is different for me. There are days when I’m able to see patients and then there are other days that it’s more important for my team that I do more leadership-related tasks to support the staff and operations. Sometimes that feels like making organization out of chaos but we always manage to do it and I’m so proud of our team for doing that.

Southside Hospital is committed to making sure that our employees, especially those caring for COVID-19 patients, are taking the necessary time to rest and recharge. I make sure to not bother people on their off time whenever possible. I am also “calling in the cavalry” by obtaining resources from other Northwell locations or from the outside to relieve our staff whenever possible.  Overall, our staff is resilient and I know that we will get through this.  

When I come home from the hospital, I have stopped our family’s usual practice of having the kids come hug me at the door, which is getting hard for them as time goes on. So we’ll have to figure out how to manage that going forward. To prevent spreading germs to them, I make sure to change and take a shower before I speak to my family. I have also been trying to have playtime with my kids to help mentally keep myself going although it has been hard to find the time with the number of emails and things that need to be addressed after work hours. When I get home sometimes I feel like part human and part android thanks to all the work emails.

I have been running for a while and meditating, both of which are coming in handy lately. The other day I ran on my treadmill with a monitor that made it look like I was running in Patagonia. That really helps to center me.

Top: File photo of Bay Shore’s Southside Hospital.