NEWARK, NJ - Over the past six weeks or so, the emergency rooms at Newark’s three hospitals have been inundated with COVID-19 patients, while the number of non-COVID patients seeking emergency care sharply declined.

During his daily briefing Thursday, Mayor Ras Baraka sounded the alarm on the problem.
“There are ancillary things that happen because of this virus,” Baraka said. “There are more people in Newark who are dying, not from COVID — the police this week had six dead on arrival in their homes because they're afraid to go to the hospital.”

While all three of the city's hospitals continue to treat patients with COVID-19, officials say there is nothing to fear in the hospital's emergency rooms and that residents suffering from chest pain, stroke symptoms, severe abdominal pain and other critical illnesses should not hesitate to call 9-1-1 or seek urgent medical care.

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University Hospital President and CEO Shereef Elnahal is so concerned about the issue that the hospital launched a new initiative, Care Around the Clock. The initiative is designed to remind the public that University Hospital is open 24/7 to provide care and services, and to stress the importance of continued access to healthcare for non-COVID-19 concerns.

“The University Hospital Emergency Department remains available to our community 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Elnahal said. “While COVID-19 has brought us many challenges and changes, we will continue to face them hand-in-hand with our community – together.”

At Saint Michaels’ Medical Center, which has also seen a drop in non-COVID-19-related cases in its emergency room, the hospital also issued a reminder that its emergency room was open and safe for patients seeking urgent care.

“Our Emergency Department remains open, safe and ready to serve patients and our community, 24-hours a day, 7-days a week,” said Dr. Hamid Shaaban, the chief medical officer of Saint Michael’s. “Our emergency room and physicians remain ready to care for you.”

While Saint Michael’s continues to treat COVID-19 patients, ensuring safe access to emergency medical care continues to be a top priority, Shaaban said.

“We are well prepared to handle non-COVID emergencies as well as able to deal with an influx of potential COVID-19 cases, and are following all state, local and federal guidelines to safeguard our staff and other patients from exposure,” Shaaban said.

Darrell K. Terry, Sr., president and CEO of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of New Jersey, said the emergency department has a separate designated area for evaluating patients who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms. 

“Throughout this pandemic Newark Beth Israel Medical Center has continued to safely deliver emergency care to patients with non COVID-19 related conditions, such as heart attacks, strokes and other critical illnesses and injuries,” Terry said.  

Newark has the highest number of positive coronavirus cases in the state with 6,147 as of 9 a.m. today. Nearly 500 Newark residents have died as a result of the virus. 

All three hospitals are seeing a reduction in the number of patients with COVID-19, but they are continuing procedures put in place over the course of the last few weeks designed to limit the spread of the virus.

All three hospitals continue to limit visitors, require social distancing and the use of masks, regularly disinfect all areas, including waiting rooms and elevators and screen anyone entering their buildings.

“The health and well-being of the Greater Newark community relies on people getting help when they need it most,” Elnahal said. “For those suffering from medical emergencies like potential heart attacks, strokes, and asthma attacks, always call 9-1-1 and seek care immediately.