Halted because of the coronavirus, elective surgeries can now resume at Glens Falls Hospital. A waiver has been granted from New York State after a delay.
Last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo allowed hospitals to reopen for elective surgeries, with some exceptions related to the prevalence of COVID-19.
But when Saratoga Hospital was given the go-ahead to resume elective surgeries, some were puzzled as to why Glens Falls Hospital to the north was not included on the same list.
Hospitals depend on elective outpatient surgeries for revenue.
Glens Falls Hospital Vice President of Hospital and Community Engagement Ray Agnew said during the shutdown, the healthcare provider took a financial hit.
“Between March 18 and now we have seen more than a 50 percent decline in revenue,” said Agnew.
On Thursday the hospital announced that it had received its waiver from the state to reopen. Officials say that’s important for the health of the community. Agnew said with people fearful of COVID-19, the hospital saw a “sharp decline” in emergency room patients exhibiting chest pain and stroke-related symptoms.
“Which tells us that people are suffering from some of these maladies at home when they should be coming in to see us,” said Agnew.
Agnew said the biggest task ahead is communicating to the public that it is safe to seek treatment in the hospital. He said all COVID-19 positive patients are held in a separate part of the hospital. If there is a complication and a patient seeking elective surgery or procedures need to be admitted, a separate wing is available. Agnew said the wing is sterilized and currently has no patients.
The reopening of the hospital is welcome news for local officials and the regional economy.
Glens Falls Economic Development Director Ed Bartholomew also serves as President of EDC Warren County.
“Certainly, Glens Falls Hospital is the region’s top employer with over 2,400 employees plus some contract organizations within those entities there,” said Bartholomew.
The city worked with local lawmakers to advocate to the state to reopen the hospital as soon as possible, including State Senator Betty Little, Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, and Assemblyman Dan Stec, who represents the City of Glens Falls.
“It’s a tremendous part of our local economy, let alone it’s a health resource in the middle of a pandemic,” said Stec.
Stec said the delay came down to a communication issue between the hospital and the state on available capacity.
“When they delved into the numbers and they were all on the same page as to what they were talking about and reporting, then they realized, ‘OK, this hospital does have adequate capacity,’” said Stec.
Governor Andrew Cuomo’s guidelines during the pandemic require hospitals keep to 30 percent of beds available for ICU patients. Glens Falls Hospital says it has adequate capacity.
More than 350 employees were furloughed during the restrictions. The hospital says it will bring back employees as needed.
The next fight facing local officials is to secure rural hospital relief funding, as included in the federal CARES Act.
Bartholomew said the hospital was initially turned down, due to its location within a city, even though it serves a largely rural area.
“Now we’ve got to work with Human Health Services in Washington, so we have been communication with Congresswoman Stefanik’s office, Senator Gillibrand and Senator Schumer’s office, as well, to work and the hospital is doing the same with this area,” said Bartholomew.
The New York State Department of Health provided WAMC with a statement after the original publication of this article, in response to an inquiry:
The Department is committed to efficiently processing the waivers required under the Governor’s Executive Order and DOH guidance regarding the Resumption of Elective Surgeries. The first round of waivers were approved Tuesday for five health systems (7 hospitals) after a review of the information submitted in relation to the criteria in the DOH guidance. An additional six hospitals were approved on Wednesday. As the guidance is in effect for a two-week period, we expect to be issuing more waivers in the coming days, as we plan for considerations for the next phase of reopening.
Glens Falls Hospital submitted a waiver for approval to resume elective surgeries and non-urgent procedures in keeping with the terms of a DOH directive issued on April 29, 2020. The waiver submitted by Glens Falls Hospital was approved effective May 5, 2020.