Hospitals overwhelmed by patients and generosity

ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — As the world and normal life have shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals have become overloaded with those sick with the virus. With thousands more patients than they would normally have, some hospitals are running low on bed space, medical equipment and supplies such as gloves and face masks. According to the New Jersey Department of Health, as of April 20, 6,986 people have been hospitalized from complications of coronavirus; of those patients, only 583 have been discharged.

Mountainside Hospital, which is in Montclair and is part of the Hackensack Meridian Health system, has been able to source both manpower and personal protective equipment from sister facilities, according to Marketing Director Chiara Marababol in an email on April 17.

“Our team on the front lines are so thankful for our community’s generosity and the outpouring of support we have received,” she said. “Our community has provided team members meals, as well as gifted us clogs and face shields. Others have used their talents to create scrub caps and homemade masks with hospital-provided materials.”

Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville and St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, both part of the RWJBarnabas Health system, both have sufficient supplies, with the exception of gowns for PPE, according to Vice President of Public Relations and Marketing Ellen Greene in an email on April 20.

“Supplies are constantly needed to replenish the extensive use by our first-line caregivers, in order to keep our patients and our caregivers safe,” Greene said. “The residents, businesses, organizations and all the communities surrounding or in the vicinity of these hospitals have been extraordinarily generous in sending food, funds and supplies. It is an incredible boost to the caregivers to know they are supported so greatly in this way.”

Donations to Clara Maass, St. Barnabas and other hospitals in the RWJBarnabas Health system can be made at

In addition to monetary donations, Clara Maass and St. Barnabas are encouraging those who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate plasma. The hospitals are participating in the Mayo Clinic’s clinical trial.

“All RWJBarnabas Health acute-care hospitals are participating in the Mayo Clinic’s clinical trial, as well as selected patients who will be in the individual experimental arm, on the use of convalescent plasma for treatment of COVID-19 patients,” Greene said. “The plasma is obtained from the blood banks with which RWJBarnabas Health has contracts — the American Red Cross and the New York Blood Center — where the convalescent plasma is collected.”

According to Greene, there are some limiting factors to the plasma procedure.

“The limiting factors to this procedure would be the amount of product available due to low levels of antibodies, the need to match convalescent plasma to a patient’s blood type — the same as any blood product — and the two-week period of time the donor must be negative after recovering from COVID-19,” she said. “It must be emphasized that convalescent plasma therapy remains an experimental procedure.”

Across the state, 1,594 patients are on ventilators, using 51.2 percent of the state’s capacity. There are 1,093 patients in critical care, 884 patients in intensive care and 4,995 patients in medical surgical care, as of April 20.