SYRACUSE – Hospitals in the Capital District will not be allowed to do elective surgery, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, because they do not meet the arbitrary 30 percent bed availability requirement.
Since the statewide ban on elected surgery went into effect, Dr. Ferdinand Venditti, the system director at Albany Medical Center Hospital, said there have been 5,600 workers furloughed across the Iroquois Healthcare Association, a conglomerate of some 27 upstate hospitals.
Last week, Cuomo said he would allow elective surgeries, a big portion of revenue for hospitals and what can be a positive life altering event for patients, in some counties in upstate with the notable exceptions of Albany and Rensselaer. That ban is expanded to include most counties in the Capital District.
But on Tuesday, April, 28 he outlined a 12-point plan to reopening regions of New York and expanded the restrictions to regions rather than individual counties and said hospitals across the Capital District do not meet the threshold. Part of that is hospitals in that particular region have a capacity of at least 30 percent available. Others include a decrease in hospitalizations for at least two weeks, a testing regime with “tracers” to track where an infected person had been and who that person came into contact with, isolation facilities where infected people can go and recover and a regional “control room” to monitor the impact of reopening.
At Albany Medical Center, there are some 300 employees on what is called “standby leave,” said Albany Med President and CEO Dennis McKenna during a video posted on the hospital website.
Those employees are, for the time being, getting full pay and benefits for staying home and essentially on call and ready to come back to work on 24-hour notice. The employees will be rotated in and out of the program, and are encouraged to volunteer while not working, he said.
“We know furloughing employees is not an easy decision and we have not had to furlough any at this time,” McKenna said.
St. Peters Health Partners, which operates St. Peter’s and Albany Memorial Hospital in Albany and Samaritan Hospital in Troy, have furloughed a number of employees as part of a 10 percent workforce reduction across its massive parent company, Trinity Health.
Glens Falls Hospital has furloughed 337 employees.
“We don’t want to run into a situation where hospitals say they can’t take any COVID patients because we have beds filled with elective surgery,” he said during his daily briefing at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse.
While Central New York hospitals can begin elective surgeries, Western New York and the Capital District, which is comprised of eight counties — Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Green, Columbia, Washington and Warren — still do not meet the 70 percent bed capacity, Cuomo said.
Upstate hospitals were taking COVID patients from the harder hit areas of downstate but that flow has slowed. Venditti said there are currently 58 COVID patients at Albany Med with 20 in the ICU and eight on a ventilator, down from a high of 36 people on a ventilator a few weeks ago when patients were coming up from New York City.
Since Friday, 12 patients were admitted to the hospital with COVID and three were discharged.
“The numbers we see today is what is happening in this region,” McKenna said.
At the onset of the pandemic, nearly two months ago, Cuomo banned elective surgeries to increase bed capacity by 50 percent at all hospitals across the state to prepare for an expected deluge of COVID-19 patients. That never occurred.
While downstate hospitals were overwhelmed at the peak of the pandemic, the USS Comfort, a travelling Navy hospital ship, was used sparingly and the 1,000-bed field hospital at the Javits Center saw a maximum of 435 patients at one time. There were at least three other field hospitals constructed in New York City and other downstate areas hardest hit by the pandemic.
Meanwhile, statewide, the number of hospitalizations, the three-day average of hospitalizations and the number of people on a ventilator continue to decline. The number of fatalities reports on Tuesday was 333, bringing the statewide total to nearly 22,700 with the majority coming from New York City, Long Island and Westchester and Rockland counties.