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Short-staffed and facing down COVID, dozens of New York hospitals ordered to pause elective care

 Researchers found that employing social media posts as a means of "visual nudging" to encourage safe behaviors resulted in decreased COVID-19 positivity rates of up to 25%.
Washington & Jefferson College, Washington PA
Researchers found that employing social media posts as a means of "visual nudging" to encourage safe behaviors resulted in decreased COVID-19 positivity rates of up to 25%.

Hospitals in Central New York, the Mohawk Valley and the North Country have been told to stop nonessential elective operations for at least two weeks because of low patient bed capacity.

Forty hospitals were ordered Saturday to cancel elective procedures. Among them, two Utica hospitals with acute care beds and emergency services operated by Mohawk Valley Health System: Faxton-St Luke’s Healthcare and St. Elizabeth Medical Center.

"What we are expecting to see is a decrease in the total surgeries that are available to this community by, we’ll be doing maybe one fourth of surgeries and procedures than we have previously done. So that does have an impact on patients," MVHS president Darlene said. "It has an impact on the medical staff, and it certainly has an impact on the hospital. But that said, we are also really struggling like all hospitals in Central New York with staff shortages. And that also has had an impact. So it's not just the one thing, it's basically two things that are impacting our ability to do surgery."

Nathan Littauer Hospital & Nursing Home in the Fulton County city of Gloversville also made the list. The facility responded to a request for comment by email, writing in part that it is asking the Department of Health to review the decision.

"The healthcare organization’s exception is largely based on the organization aligning more closely to the Capital Region. For two years, Littauer has been collaborating weekly - sometimes daily - to load balance COVID hospitalizations and transfer demands with Capital Region hospitals. The hospital does not regularly communicate with hospitals to the west," the statement said. "Additionally, surgeries at Littauer are largely not impacted by fluctuating COVID surges."

Also listed: A.O. Fox Memorial Hospital in Oneonta, Cobleskill Regional Hospital and Little Falls Hospital, all affiliates of the Bassett Healthcare Network, whose chief of Surgical Services is Dr. Nick Hellenthal.

"We are continuing to try to accommodate, you know, patients with non-elective matters as best as we can, we've been pretty successful in that," Hellenthal said.We've had to limit truly elective procedures, which are procedures, and surgeries that are not done for cancer, for pain, for other debilitating things. So if it's a truly elective procedure, we sort of had to cut back on those. "

Hellenthal encourages people not to ignore medical emergencies.

"They should come to the ER, seek care, we've been doing a pretty good job getting there," said Hellentahl. " Alot of this is at the discretion of the surgeons or practitioners as to what's elective, versus, you know, what is not truly elective. And so most, I think the practitioners do a pretty good job at, you know, siphoning out which surgeries are truly elective.”

Hellenthal concedes it is difficult for patients and their families trying to plan, and for surgeons trying to adhere to a schedule. The State Department of Health also says if any hospital's occupancy is above 95%, they are further required to halt elective surgeries at hospital-owned ambulatory surgical centers for a minimum of two weeks.

You can find the full list of affected facilities below:
Mohawk Valley Region:

Faxton-St Luke’s Healthcare St Luke’s Division

Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital

St. Mary's Healthcare

A.O. Fox Memorial Hospital

Cobleskill Regional Hospital

Little Falls Hospital

Nathan Littauer Hospital

Rome Memorial Hospital, Inc

St Elizabeth Medical Center

St. Mary's Healthcare - Amsterdam Memorial Campus

Finger Lakes Region:

F.F. Thompson Hospital

Geneva General Hospital

Newark-Wayne Community Hospital

Rochester General Hospital

The Unity Hospital of Rochester

United Memorial Medical Center North Street Campus

Clifton Springs Hospital and Clinic

Highland Hospital

Medina Memorial Hospital

Nicholas H. Noyes Memorial Hospital

Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hospital of Yates County Inc

Strong Memorial Hospital

Wyoming County Community Hospital

Central New York Region:  

Crouse Hospital

Oneida Health Hospital

Oswego Hospital

St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center

University Hospital SUNY Health Science Center

UPSTATE University Hospital at Community General

Auburn Community Hospital

Community Memorial Hospital Inc

Guthrie Cortland Medical Center

Impacted Hospitals in Other Regions:

Brooks-TLC Hospital System, Inc.

Mount St Mary’s Hospital and Health Center

Erie County Medical Center

Mercy Hospital of Buffalo

Sisters of Charity Hospital

The University of Vermont Health Network - Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital

Bertrand Chaffee Hospital

Olean General Hospital

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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