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Capital Region Hospitals Release COVID-19 Preparedness Plan

Ellis Medicine's vice president and chief medical officer Dr. David Liebers addresses reporters as Incoming Albany Med President and CEO Dr. Dennis McKenna looks on.
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
Ellis Medicine's vice president and chief medical officer Dr. David Liebers addresses reporters as Incoming Albany Med President and CEO Dr. Dennis McKenna looks on.

Responding to the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation, hospitals across the region have collaborated on a coronavirus preparedness plan.

As New York state’s coronavirus caseload grows, clinical leadership from the Albany Med Health System including Columbia Memorial Health, Saratoga and Glens Falls Hospitals, St. Peter's Health Partners, Ellis Medicine and St. Mary's Healthcare Amsterdam gathered Friday afternoon at Albany Med to discuss preparedness efforts.   "The risk of severe illness in healthy individuals is very small."

"While we are taking care of patients who are coming in looking for testing we're still able to serve the needs of the community." ~ Incoming Albany Med President and CEO Dr. Dennis McKenna

Hospital General Director Ferdinand Venditti is Albany Med's executive vice president for system care delivery. He says all of the hospitals have established pre-diagnosis procedures and areas for patients who may think they have contracted COVID-19.    "So behind the P building in a parking lot is a 40 by 80 tent, there's a way to get into it, it's heated, it's got electricity, etc. That's where we are sending patients who show up with mild to moderate respiratory symptoms that we're suspicious might have COVID-19. We've also in conjunction with the county, late yesterday sent a letter to primary care providers saying that we will provide testing with a physician's order at that same site. We are working on actually making a little drive-thru portion for those individuals. So that's how we're handling it that that tent went up, became live about mid-morning yesterday, and is active right now."

Venditti says billing procedures are to be determined.   "We are capturing registration information. We don't know how we're gonna bill. But we're not turning anyone away for testing."

Incoming Albany Med President and CEO Dr. Dennis McKenna says the public should not worry about canceling elective surgery or bed shortages or lack of ICU care - that it's "business as usual" across all regional medical facilities.  

McKenna stressed that all of the regional hospitals are prepared for any contingency, well-equipped and well-prepared to handle patients, and there is no reason to panic.

Ellis Medicine's vice president and chief medical officer Dr. David Liebers is an infectious disease specialist.   "The average length of stay in the hospital in China is about eight days. But it can be very variable those who are seriously ill and have complications related to coronavirus, such as severe respiratory failure or other complications such as what called nosocomial infections may have much longer recovery period. So it seems to be quite variable. But again, the average length of stay in China was about eight days."

Liebers was asked about the third-party vendor who tested positive for COVID-19 and is believed to have come in contact with people at Ellis.  "As I understand it at the time the symptoms were very nonspecific at that point. And but yet, indeed the vendor did test positive earlier this week."

Columbia Memorial Health Chief Medical Officer Cliff Belden:   "We do not want patients just showing up unannounced. It's not safe for us, for our workforce, or for other patients that might be in the facility. So most of us have hotlines or numbers on our websites that you can look at, get some questions answered, and and be referred when appropriate to the location. So we just want to make sure that people do that. Call first. Don't just show up."

Venditti emphasizes frequent handwashing as recommended by the CDC as a major first line of defense in preventing COVID-19.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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