Vaibhav Sharma

After opening an overflow medical facility in the Payne Whitney Gymnasium’s Lanman Center to serve Yale community members during the COVID-19 pandemic, Yale Health has transferred control of the facility to the Yale New Haven Hospital System to serve the general public.

The opening of the facility to the public is part of a wider effort by the health system to increase its capacity to accomodate all patients regardless of their insurance status amid the pandemic. The gym space was originally converted to medical use in March with an initial set of 50 beds. However, it has yet to host a patient. Meanwhile, YNHHS has seen a significant increase in COVID-19 cases across its five hospitals and expects to see a peak in cases in the coming weeks. Yale Health and YNHHS are collaborating closely to ensure the transition runs smoothly, according to Yale Health Director Paul Genecin. Even though YNHHS is independent from the University, the two are closely affiliated. Yale New Haven Hospital is the teaching hospital for Yale’s medical and nursing students.

“Working in collaboration with Yale University, Yale Medicine and the City of New Haven, we have been able to activate more than 100 beds at the Lanman Center to give us additional capacity in the event of a massive influx of patients with COVID-19,” said health system CEO Marna P. Borgstrom in a YaleNews post. “In moments like these, the true essence of partnership emerges as we work to enhance the heroic efforts of our healthcare providers.” 

Yale Health first set up the field hospital to care for Yale students, faculty, staff and their family members. Because Yale Health’s state licensure only allows it to care for Yale community members, the University chose to transfer control to the health system in order to potentially serve the entire Elm City community. 

The Lanman Center, which is usually used for jogging, basketball games and other athletic activities, is now outfitted with beds and necessary medical supplies. In addition, Yale Health staff built hand-washing stations and standalone rooms to act as decontamination sites. Originally, Yale Health planned to use the Center to house COVID-19 patients who did not need immediate hospitalization. 

YNHHS normally has a patient capacity of 1,541, but has expanded that capacity with the additions of beds at Southern Connecticut State University, Yale New Haven Shoreline Medical Center and the Lanman Center to 1,909. The facility at SCSU is similar to the setup in the Lanman Center and also has yet to host any patients. As of the morning of April 15th, YNNHS was treating 750 patients for COVID-19, 421 of them at Yale New Haven Hospital. According to its website on the same day, the health system had discharged 676 patients who tested positive for COVID-19. 

“We still have a ways to go until we reach maximum capacity and when we run out depends on the shape of that curve and how sick patients are,” said Thomas Balcezak, YNHH’s Chief Clinical Officer in the YNHH Press Town Hall on Tuesday. 

While there are various models for predicting the peak date, Balcezak suggested that cases in the New Haven region would likely spike around April 20th to the 23rd. 

“We’ve seen a pretty significant and fluid motion of COVID-19 cases from our most southwestern hospital in Greenwich, near the New York border, up the I-95 corridor,” said Vin Petrini, YNHH’s senior vice president for public affairs in the same post. “You can track the cases as they come farther north through the state. We’re starting to see an influx of cases at Bridgeport Hospital and in New Haven, as well.”

YNHHS will determine the level of care the field hospital will provide. Yale Health has provided the health system with guidelines, operating procedures, and safety plans that it developed for the space, according to Genecin. 

“It’s critical that we all share resources to allow us flexibility to best respond to the spread of the virus,” Mayor Justin Elicker told the News. “If we have one facility for one group and a separate  facility for another group, if one group becomes overloaded, we won’t have enough resources for that specific group even though there are more resources available … That is why it’s so important for Yale to have opened up its facility to more than just Yale affiliates.”

Genecin also pledged that Yale Health will work with YNHH to address staffing challenges at the facility.

“Hospital bed shortage is a potential concern in a pandemic and the university projected that YNHHS could need alternate care sites to increase its capacity.  Yale University is providing a benefit to the entire community by handing off this alternate care site to a hospital where licensure permits treatment of all patients,” Genecin told the News in an email.

As of April 15, there are at least 775 COVID-19 cases in New Haven and 19 deaths related to the virus.

Aidan Campbell | aidan.campbell@yale.edu

Jose Davila IV | jose.davilaiv@yale.edu