Medical personnel and staff on Wednesday amped up efforts to screen potential COVID-19 patients at Mount Sinai Hospital.
The hospital sits in one of Chicago’s neediest neighborhoods and is part of the largest safety-net health care system in the state. The effort comes after startling numbers showed 68 percent of coronavirus deaths in Chicago are African American.
Two weeks ago, the hospital began using Rapid Mobile Assessment trailers to screen those with coronavirus symptoms from those with other medical needs.
Nurse Raquel Prendkowski, the director of Emergency Preparedness at Mount Sinai, oversees the work in the tan trailers that sit inside a secure area at the corner of California and Ogden.
“We want to be able to bring [people] in, have the medical screening, put their minds at ease and see if there is more that we can do for them," Prendkowski said.
After a general screening, if warranted, patients will see a nurse and an advanced provider.
“The number is growing of really sick patients,” she said, standing outside the secure area wearing a protective mask. “The people that are coming in are ICU patients and they are very ill.”
Tuesday night at Holy Cross Hospital, a part of the Sinai Health system, on Chicago's South Side, 95 percent of the patients arriving were for possible for COVID-19 symptoms.
At Mount Sinai on the West Side, 40 to 50 more beds have been added beyond the normal units in ICU.
Like many other health care providers, Prendkowski has distanced herself from her family, moving them to an area in Michigan that has not yet had a confirmed COVID case.
The distance helps some.
“It’s sad when you get home, though, and [normally] there are little voices that are annoying, yelling, 'Mom, Mom, Mom, I need something.' You miss those things.”
The relentlessness of the virus coupled with the 14-hour days is taking an emotional toll.
“Yes, because this is different than anyone has ever seen and I think everyone, I don’t want to say depression but sadness sinking in,” she replied when asked how she is coping. “It’s hard to cope because we are not quite sure what to do with it.”
We spoke next to a sign that reads “Heroes Work Here.” It has become a near universal feeling about healthcare workers on the front lines, including dietitians, technicians, food service workers, those who clean and those who heal.
“You know we started a group text when this sign went up and everyone was just crying. We do not consider ourselves heroes. We are just doing what we always do,” she said.
And what they are doing now is pushing for more people to be screened.
Walk-ups are welcome or you can call 773-257-2682 for an appointment.