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Hospitals are prepared for COVID-19

AMSTERDAM — Local hospitals, including St. Mary’s Healthcare and Nathan Littauer, are taking precautionary measures and steps every day to be prepared and fully equipped for the anticipated COVID-19 outbreak.

Both hospitals have changed their visitor policies to suspend all visitation in response to preparedness for the novel coronavirus outbreak and in accordance with the most recent New York State Department of Health guidelines. Both hospitals, however, are making an exception when medically necessary to family members or legal representatives of patients in imminent end-of-life situations.

“We went to no visitors at the hospital,” said Cheryl McGrattan, vice president of marketing and communications. “This is an effort to make sure patients and our staff, and also our community, remain safe.”

“It is important to understand that St. Mary’s, as well as other healthcare facilities, is doing its best to ensure those members who are in need of critical medical services are able to obtain them,” said Vic Giulianelli, president and CEO of St. Mary’s. “This means setting temporary guidelines that are intended to keep our healthcare workers healthy, our current patients safe from exposure, and ultimately our entire community safer from exposure. Enforcing visitor restrictions is a necessity if we are to continue to provide healthcare services.”

According to a news release given by Rick Hyde, director of marketing and communications of St. Mary’s Healthcare, as part of a comprehensive response to preparedness for the COVID-19 outbreak, St. Mary’s Healthcare has initiated its Incident Command in preparation for this emergency condition.

All department heads are meeting regularly to best address immediate and future needs for the ministry and community impact. St. Mary’s is also in contact with other Capital Region health care leaders to ensure response is uniformly implemented in the area.

“We are also aware that supplies and patient beds are an area of focus for those areas where the virus has already had great impact,” the release states. “St. Mary’s has a sufficient amount of beds at this time, as well as patient care supplies; however those are very fluid responses. The depth of those resources all depends on how well we do as a community in response to initiatives and directives meant to limit the transmission of this virus.”

Montgomery County Public Health Director Sara Boerenko said on Thursday that they have tested 62 individuals who are being monitored after testing. The county currently only has two confirmed cases with a number of tests still pending. Those being tested are on a mandatory 14-day home quarantine and are awaiting test results.

Although testing is being done in the county, and St. Mary’s Healthcare is preparing in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the county does have a testing shortage, Boerenko said.

She said the shortage is due to people who did not meet the criteria for testing being tested, and those who do meet the criteria, no longer have tests available to them.

“We are now in a crisis with the lack of available tests,” Boerenko said. “Therefore, we have no choice but to ask people to self-monitor. Currently, we do not have access to testing locally. There’s a regional program that does have the ability to come to a residence to test folks that meet criteria. However, this must be arranged via the local health department.”

According to the St. Mary’s website, they have over 1,600 associates, 123 acute care beds, a 160 bed skilled nursing home, over 10 primary care and specialty care sites, and over 30 community-based behavioral health programs throughout the Montgomery and Fulton County area.

According to the Nathan Littauer Hospital website, it is a 74-bed acute care hospital with an 84-bed skilled nursing home.

McGrattan said they have eight ICU beds and 20 beds on their medical surgical floor where sick patients are put.

“We are in daily meetings, we are following all protocols, we are procuring for this, we are doing inventories, we are communicating,” McGrattan said.

However, she said she is unsure of how many COVID-19 tests are available or how many people have been tested so far.

She was also unsure of how many ventilators are on site.

“We have such a committed health care team and we are so committed to keeping our patients safe, our community safe, and also our employees safe,” McGrattan said. “We are meeting and preparing. If people could step inside our hospital I think they would be very encouraged by what they see. Just a lot of workers that are so concerned about our community and doing everything we can to make sure people stay safe.”

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