New Jersey hospitals have been able to handle the increasing number of COVID-19 patients being admitted for treatment, but some medical centers in the northern region of the state are now approaching critical-care capacity.

On Tuesday night, seven hospitals in North Jersey had to divert patients.

Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said on Wednesday that the predicted COVID-19 surge is beginning in North Jersey.

Hospitals go on divert status when they don't have the workforce to care for patients or they do not have enough beds.

Some of the hospitals that diverted had overcrowded emergency rooms. Two hospitals called the state Health Department for extra ventilators, which they ended up getting.

When a hospital reaches divert status, they notify the Department of Health and the local EMS.

"The local EMS has a good picture of where the beds are and what the availability is, so no one gets to the front door of a hospital and gets turned away," Persichilli said.

She said divert status is usually cleared relatively quickly.

Because of an expected surge of patients in the next two weeks, the state is working with the federal government to open a field hospital for patients not requiring critical care at the Meadowlands Convention Center in Secaucus. Three other field hospitals will be opened in the state.

Persichilli said every effort will be made to keep North Jersey patients in North Jersey facilities, not shuffle them to hospitals in Central and South Jersey.

“Patients would only get moved if there was nothing else left," she said.

She said because hospitals have been re-opening closed wings and taking other steps to expand capacity, “we believe the beds will be there but we want to make sure that the supplies and the ventilators are there.”

Persichilli noted all hospitals have started reporting how many ventilators they have on hand.

“We believe we’re going to be OK but we will be moving ventilators around, from the South to the North, across regions. We’ll be using all ventilators.”

She also said the capacity issues now being felt in North Jersey are not affecting hospitals in Central and South Jersey.


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