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COVID-19 claims life of Mercy Medical Center critical care chief

The coronavirus pandemic hit Mercy Medical Center particularly hard July 25, when Dr. Joseph Costa, a member of its staff since 1997 and the division chief of its Critical Care unit for 15 years, died of COVID-19.

Costa was 56. 

“He dedicated his life and career to caring for the sickest patients,” said a statement from the hospital’s leadership. “And when the global pandemic came down upon us, Joe selflessly continued his work on the front lines – deeply committed to serving our patients and our city during this time of great need.”

In mid-March, the Catholic hospital in downtown Baltimore began the fast-track construction of a 32-bed acute care unit, in response to the growing pandemic. The 17th-floor unit began treating patients diagnosed with COVID-19 June 1.

Costa served as an officer of the Mercy Medical staff from 2010-2016, and as its president from 2014-16. He held several other leadership roles, including as chairman of its Medical Morals Committee, and on its Corporate Ethics Committee.

He was a 1990 graduate of the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

In the statement, Religious Sister of Mercy Helen Amos, executive chairwoman of the Board of Trustees, and Dr. David Maine, president and CEO of Mercy Medical Center, described his warm manner with patients.

“He was beloved by his patients and their family members – known for his warm and comforting bedside manner as well as his direct and informative communication style,” the statement said. “When he counseled our patients and families, he did so with great compassion and empathy.

“For all the nurses and staff who worked closely with Joe on the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), he was like an older brother that all admired and revered. During a recent interview discussing the pandemic, he remarked about how proud he was to be a part of the Mercy family, expressing his love for his co-workers and his appreciation for all we are doing to care for our patients. He will be missed greatly.”

Kevin J. Parks, visual journalist for the Catholic Review, knew Costa as an “unpretentious” colleague from 1997 to 2016, then as one of his caregivers in 2017, when he returned to the hospital for the removal of a tumor on his brain.

“The one thing I remember him saying to me while I was in ICU, was ‘We’ll take good care of you.’ His smile, quiet demeanor and steady assurance offered me and my family comfort during a time of considerable uncertainty,” Parks said. “I know he was doing the same for current patients and colleagues during this (coronavirus) pandemic.”

Plans are being made for a memorial service.

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