Covid-19 emerged as a public health crisis that disrupted normal patterns of health care in the New York City metropolitan area. In preparation for a large influx of critically ill patients, operating rooms (ORs) at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Irving Medical Center (NYP-Columbia) were converted into a novel intensive care unit area, the ORICU.
23 ORs were converted into an 82-bed ORICU. Adaptations to the OR environment permitted the delivery of standard critical care therapies. Non-intensive-care-trained staff were educated on the basics of critical care and deployed in a hybrid staffing model. Anesthesia machines were repurposed as critical care ventilators, with accommodations to ensure reliable function and patient safety. To compare ORICU survivorship to outcomes in more traditional environments, we performed Kaplan-Meier survival analysis of all patients cared for in the ORICU, censoring data at the time of ORICU closure. We hypothesized that age, gender, and obesity may have influenced the risk of death. Thus, we estimated hazard ratios for death using Cox proportional hazard regression models with age, gender, and body mass index (BMI) as covariables and, separately, using older age (65 years and older) adjusted for gender and BMI.
The ORICU cared for 133 patients from March 24 – May 14, 2020. Patients were transferred to the ORICU from other ICUs, inpatient wards, the Emergency Department, and other institutions. Patients remained in the ORICU until either transfer to another unit or death. As the hospital patient load decreased, patients were transferred out of the ORICU. This process was completed on May 14, 2020. At time of data censoring, 55 (41.4%) of patients had died. The estimated probability of survival 30 days after admission was 0.61 (95% CI 0.52 – 0.69). Age was significantly associated with increased risk of mortality (HR = 1.05, 95% CI 1.03 – 1.08, p < 0.001 for a 1 year increase in age). Patients who were 65 years or older were an estimated 3.17 times more likely to die than younger patients (95% CI 1.78 – 5.63, p < 0.001) when adjusting for gender and BMI.
A large number of critically ill Covid-19 patients were cared for in the ORICU, which substantially increased ICU capacity at NYP-Columbia. The estimated ORICU survival rate at 30 days was comparable to other reported rates, suggesting this was an effective approach to manage the influx of critically ill Covid-19 patients during a time of crisis.