A field hospital built by New York City as the coronavirus pandemic was peaking in April cost more than $52 million. Located at the U.S.T.A. Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, the hospital had hundreds of beds and dozens of medical professionals. But it treated just 79 patients over the month it was open, Brian M. Rosenthal of The New York Times reports:
“Doctors at the Queens Hospital Center, a public hospital in Jamaica, and at other medical centers wanted to transfer patients to Billie Jean King. But they were blocked by bureaucracy, turf battles and communication failures, according to internal documents and interviews with workers.
“New York paid as much as $732 an hour for some doctors at Billie Jean King, but the city made them spend hours on paperwork. They were supposed to treat coronavirus patients, but they did not accept people with fevers, a hallmark symptom of the virus. Officials said the site would serve critically ill patients, but workers said it opened with only one or two ventilators.”
City and state officials told the Times that the hospital treated such a small number of patients because the spread of the virus was brought under control and the city concluded that patients were best treated at existing hospitals. Those hospitals were expanding capacity, but they were still overcrowded and their medical staffs were stretched thin.
“I basically got paid $2,000 a day to sit on my phone and look at Facebook,” Katie Capano, a nurse practitioner from Baltimore who worked at the pop-up hospital told the Times. “We all felt guilty. I felt really ashamed, to be honest.”
An aide to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told the Times that she expected the federal government to reimburse the city for the cost of the hospital.
This article was updated to correct the cost of the hospital, $52 million.