While protesters posted signs on fences surrounding the hospital, grateful New Yorkers also placed flowers there. SP workers said they didn’t have to worry about meals: Food trucks and catering companies showed up with free food.
Through all the fuss, Mount Sinai did not waver from its partnership with SP, even when activists accused the hospital system’s gay president of having “forgotten his community.” Mount Sinai and SP assured the public that they would serve all patients equally, and Mount Sinai posted a video commemorating the field hospital when it discharged its final patient.
“Mount Sinai was one of the best partners we’ve ever had on the field, frankly,” said Tenpenny. He thinks Mount Sinai faced more pressure in the controversy because the hospital system remains in New York after SP packs up and leaves. “To stand up for the lives of New Yorkers over and above any kind of political stance or a news article or bad press, that spoke volumes,” he said.
Tenpenny also thought this partnership with a field hospital and an existing facility was a good model for other places around the United States facing outbreaks that might overwhelm hospital systems, as happened in New York.
“We took care of more patients than the Comfort did because we didn’t have standalone processes,” said Tenpenny. “Mount Sinai’s policies and procedures remained in place, so we could just slot right in.” Humanitarian groups often bring their own processes, which slows things down.
Tenpenny highlighted advantages SP had that other hospitals didn’t: It could design the layout of the hospital for COVID-19 patients. SP built donning and doffing stations where personnel wanted, moving wards around to decrease infections. Workers also could compare notes with the medical team at the SP field hospital in Italy, which had a few extra weeks of experience with the virus.
Tenpenny was initially concerned with how Americans would react to receiving treatment in a tent hospital. But the “real community in the tents” pleasantly surprised him. Most patients there were ethnic minorities from Queens and Brooklyn. At times the majority were Spanish-speaking, which made Tenpenny glad SP had Spanish-speaking nurses.