‘Getting creative:’ Hospitals contend with capacity limits amid COVID-19 surge

Coronavirus

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Local hospitals are sounding the alarm with rising admissions of Covid-19 and other emergencies driving capacity in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) and emergency room over the limit, pushing them to find new ways to maximize space with the resources they have.  

“Getting creative,” are the exact words from the Chair of Emergency Medicine with Rochester General Hospital. Between staffing shortages and demand struggling to keep up with admissions, Doctors explain it is a challenge not getting any easier.  

As trends of positive Covid-19 cases go up in the Finger Lakes Region, so do hospitalizations. Plus, non-Covid emergencies keep healthcare systems stretched thinner than ever. To keep up, Rochester General Hospital had to shift where they treat those with non-life-threatening illnesses.  

“A number of years ago I wouldn’t think we’d be taking care of patients in a hallway, but we went there,” Dr. Keith Grams of Rochester General Hospital said. “Now we’re actually utilizing additional hallways. Sometimes we start care in a different hallway and move around.”  

The other part of this challenge is not having enough staff to always meet demand in severe hospital capacity. So, Rochester General has moved other providers to assist in roles meant for nurses.  

“Physicians assistants as well as Nurse Practitioners that are jumping in and helping take primary patient assignments classically done by our nursing colleagues in the past,” The Chair of Emergency Medicine continued. “We actually have an area in the emergency department we weren’t able to staff before, is now up and running for about two weeks.”  

Meanwhile Strong Memorial Hospital has opened a new temporary unit for elderly patients who’ve recovered in the hospital but have no nursing homes to take them due to low staffing levels. Even after 26 National Guard members came to assist homes in Monroe County. 

“In terms of staffing of course it’s not enough,” Kelly Luther, Director of Social Work and Patient Family Services, told us. “I think that solving the staffing challenges in our nursing homes is something that’s going to take some time and more resources.”  

Doctors stress they need the public to do their part now more than ever to take precautions to slow the spread and get vaccinated, so you don’t let the virus circulate to more people vulnerable.  

“Majority of patients admitted to the Intensive Care Unit for a covid related concern are not vaccinated,” Dr. Grams stated. “So in the hospital setting that is a significant challenge and taxing to the system.”  

Doctors with Strong Memorial Hospital say at times elderly patients in their Alternative Level of Care are held up in their facility for as much as 50 days after treatment is overdue to nursing homes not able to take in new residents due to low staffing.  

As of now, there is no word on any additional help from the National Guard coming in to help from the State. 

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