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WAMC confirms North Adams Regional Hospital will reopen in March, a decade after sudden closure

An interview with Saratoga Hospital CEO Angelo Calbone

Saratoga Hospital President and CEO Angelo Calbone
Photo provided by Saratoga Hospital

The surge in COVID-19 cases during the holiday season has pushed local daily new infection numbers and demand for testing to new heights. 

To get an update on how the latest surge is affecting hospitals, WAMC's Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard spoke this morning with Saratoga Hospital President and CEO Angelo Calbone, who called from home...

To get an update on how the latest surge is affecting hospitals, WAMC's Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard spoke this morning with Saratoga Hospital President and CEO Angelo Calbone, who called from home.

Angelo Calbone:

I get more and more, become more reluctant to predict what I think is going to happen. Every time I do that I'm I tend to be wrong. But we did experience a pretty alarming spike coming into this fall. And I think it's taken us all a bit by surprise. It is trending downward a bit now in terms of total inpatient volume. But community positivity is still very high. And our testing sites on some days, frankly, have been overwhelmed. We've seen days that are hundreds past what we consider normal volume in our urgent care and at our testing sites, so you know, community exposure, still running very high. But thank goodness hospital volume is trending down a bit, although much higher than it was last fall. The part that, you know, is none of this, none of this is good. But the part that is really causing us, I think, the greatest challenge at this minute is staff, staff infections. While our staff is completely vaccinated, that's a requirement now, people are still becoming, you know, exposed in the community, and that's requiring them to stay home as they work through the testing process. So we've been challenged with staffing this year anyway, and now we're experiencing challenges with staffing having to stay home, as they work through exposures and testing, so that that's putting a strain on the organization.

Lucas Willard :

The CDC released its guidance recently that reduces the COVID-19 isolation and quarantine periods for critical workers from 10 days to five days. That's been a move that nurses unions have criticized. But how do you feel about that move? Is it something that would help reduce the strain on staffing?

Angelo Calbone:

Yes, yeah, we actually were, we've been pleased to see that come forward. Back to the point, our entire staff is vaccinated. Infections tend to be very mild. And all of our staff are required to wear a mask we feel we feel they're very safe to have back in the organization in five days, and yeah, that's, that's going to help take some of this pressure off of, you know, what, what I described as the worst staffing shortage that I've seen in my, in my career, and I, I've been at this for quite a while.

Lucas Willard:

Are non-essential non-urgent procedures at the hospital still being restricted due to reduced bed capacity, staffed bed capacity, under a state mandate?

Angelo Calbone:

We at Saratoga Hospital…and I think, you know, this is hospital specific, in terms of which institutions are impacted with the restrictions…We were on that list for a while but as volumes dropped off a bit, we came off the list. But the reality is, we have had to manage elective procedures according to staff capacity. So while we're taking elective work, we have to limit that work and manage that work according to our ability to staff the organization and make beds available. So quite honestly, it doesn't matter, I think, at this point who is on or off the list. All institutions are, are managing their volume, according to their ability to staff.

Lucas Willard :

You'd mentioned testing earlier and up in the northern part of the Saratoga Hospital region, you have the Queensberry Aviation Mall mass testing site and vaccination site that's open but the greater Capital Region, the southern part of the Capital Region doesn't have one of those right now. There are pharmacies which you know, have seen the at home tests fly off the shelves. You've had the long lines outside of the urgent cares, would a another mass testing site, would that help reduce a strain on the hospital as well because more people are able to identify whether they're infected or no?

Angelo Calbone:

Yes, the answer that is yes. You know, we know that the testing sites that have opened we just know by anecdotal information is feedback where people are using them is taking pressure off of our resources. But honestly, you can't tell because the volume is still so high. But additional testing sites would most certainly decompress some of our facilities particularly Urgent Care. Urgent care sites are busier than they have ever been. And COVID symptoms and testing is driving most of that volume right now. We're finding a way to manage it. But that obviously slows things down, creates congestion, and probably makes it difficult for people who need traditional urgent care to access that as quickly, so additional testing resources would be welcomed.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.