State officials have revealed the list of 32 hospitals halting elective health care to free up beds in the face of surging COVID-19 outbreaks and staffing shortages.
The list included 12 hospitals in the Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, as well as 20 hospitals in Western New York, Central New York, the North Country and Capital Region.
Gov. Kathy Hochul on Monday described the measure as an attempt to boost bed capacity in regions being hit hardest by COVID-19 surges, while monitoring the issue in other communities with lower infection rates.
“We did not want to return to a scenario in the early months of the pandemic when there was a wholesale shutting down of elective surgeries, regardless of what the infection rate was in a region,” she said during a briefing in Manhattan, referring to the initial pandemic wave in spring 2020.
Under the guidelines, hospitals on the so-called impacted facilities list will be required to halt elective care for at least two weeks, beginning Thursday.
The Health Department will determine weekly if more hospitals will be added to the list of those halting elective care.
The move comes as New York reported 3,285 people were hospitalized due to COVID-19 statewide as of Sunday, which comes after months of steadily rising hospitalizations.
In some upstate communities, the COVID-19 hospitalization trends were outpacing the same period last year, when holiday season gatherings fueled outbreaks that peaked in January.
The daily COVID-19 death toll in New York has been slowly increasing in recent weeks but remained at 49 on Sunday, a silver-lining that Hochul has repeatedly attributed to New York’s high vaccination rates, especially among the frail and elderly, who are some of most vulnerable to the respiratory disease.
By contrast, New York’s daily death toll topped 800 in spring 2020, as the virus ravaged New York City prior to vaccinations and improved understanding of how to treat COVID-19 patients.
Which NY hospitals are halting elective care
The state Department of Health late Monday released the final list of hospitals halting elective care, including the following hospitals in the Finger Lakes and Mohawk Valley.
- F.F. Thompson Hospital in Canandaigua
- Geneva General Hospital
- Highland Hospital in Rochester
- Rochester General Hospital
- Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester
- The Unity Hospital in Greece
- Wyoming County Community Hospital
- A.O. Fox Memorial Hospital in Oneonta
- Faxton St. Luke’s Healthcare in Utica
- Little Falls Hospital
- St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Utica
- St. Mary’s Healthcare in Amsterdam
Some hospital leaders last week reported part of the bed capacity crunch stemmed from short-staffed nursing homes refusing to accept new residents, leaving untold numbers of well patients effectively stuck in hospitals awaiting placement.
Hochul last week deployed 120 National Guard medical personnel to aid nursing homes and help ease the bed capacity shortages in hospitals.
She noted Monday that some hospitals in downstate communities with limited COVID-19 case counts will also send medical workers to aid upstate hospitals, though further details were not immediately available.
“You’ll start to see some of that pressure relieved; it’s not going to be an easy situation. We expect to see a continuation, but not an uncontrolled situation,” she said, referring to bed and staffing shortages in New York’s health care system.
Meanwhile, several hospitals in the Southern Tier and Hudson Valley appeared to be at risk of halting elective care in the future. These hospitals took some 11th-hour steps last week to increase bed capacity in order to be removed from the final list of facilities impacted by the state order.
How NY is halting elective care at some hospitals
The guidelines released Friday expanded upon the initial plans for choosing which hospitals must halt elective care.
The assessment below will be used on a weekly basis to determine the impacted facilities list.
- High risk regional assessment: Low current regional capacity defined as staffed acute bed occupancy rate for the region at 90% or higher (based on the previous 7-day average).
- Or decreasing current regional capacity defined as staffed acute bed occupancy rate for the region at 85-90% (based on the previous 7-day average) AND New COVID-19 hospital admission rate for the region (previous 7-day average per 100,000 population) is greater than 4.
- If the high-risk regional criteria is met, then the facility-level risk assessment will be completed.
- Facility-level risk assessment is defined as low current facility capacity: Staffed acute bed occupancy rate for the facility at 90% or higher (based on the previous 7-day average).
The guidelines also detail which procedures are considered essential and will continue at the facilities.
Among the essential procedures are cancer-related care, including diagnostic procedure of suspected cancer.
Neurosurgery, cardiac care with symptoms and transplants are also deemed essential, as well as intractable pain, transplants and trauma. Limb-threatening vascular procedures and dialysis vascular access will also continue under the rules.
Further, the guidelines appear to allow doctors to use some discretion in providing care. For example, the essential care list includes “highly symptomatic patients” and those that are at “a clinically high risk of harm if their procedures are not completed.”
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