Local hospitals should not be required to share ventilators and other equipment with downstate medical facilities coping with an influx of COVID-19 patients, Assemblyman Dan Stec and US Representative Elise Stefanik argue.
Both have issued statements responding to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s announcement that he would sign an Executive Order to allow the state to redistribute ventilators from institutions that have no immediate need for them to hospitals whose resources are being depleted.
“Our hospitals already possess precious few ventilators and PPE, and we are going to need all of them to care for our vulnerable population. We can’t have these vital resources taken from us,” stated Dan Stec.
Elise Stefanik issued a statement April 3 that claimed: “North Country hospitals (have) reached out to my office with this specific concern– our rural hospitals are already very limited in resources and we must ensure Upstate New York’s needs for testing supplies and ventilators are fully met.”
Yet local hospitals, large and small, are willing to share their resources with downstate providers, the Lake George Mirror is learning.
Through its spokesman, vice president for community relations Ray Agnew, the Glens Falls Hospital stated: “We will still be able to care for our community members in need, even with the diversion of a portion of our equipment. Our team has worked tirelessly to ensure we are fully prepared to care for patients affected by COVID-19, and we are incredibly proud of our physicians, nurses, caregivers and staff.
“We are facing an unprecedented crisis in New York and across the country. Glens Falls Hospital remains committed to doing our part to end this pandemic.”
It is not clear which North Country hospitals “reached out” to Stefanik’s office with concerns about sharing resources.
Asked if the University of Vermont Health Network – Elizabethtown Community Hospital, which operates the Emergency Room in Ticonderoga, was among them, spokeswoman Elizabeth Rogers said, “No.”
Asked if hospital administrators feared that it would lack the resources needed to care for patients, Rogers said, “No.”
“At this stage, some of our resources may be needed to support the COVID-19 response in New York City. When the surge reaches Northern New York, Governor Cuomo assured us that the support will be reciprocated,” said Rogers.
Rogers said the University of Vermont Health Network – Elizabethtown Community Hospital, is “working closely with hospitals in New York and across the University of Vermont Health Network to prepare for an increase in COVID-19 patients in our region.”
Ray Agnew said the Glens Falls Hospital also expects to have access to the medical providers and equipment necessary to care for its patients.
The Glens Falls Hospital is participating in a state-wide initiative to share information, supplies, staff and patients among hospitals across New York, said Agnew.
(When asked by the Lake George Mirror during a conference call with local media on April 3 if her claims that North Country hospitals are concerned about diminishing resources conformed with the hospitals’ own statements, Stefanik replied that the hospitals could speak for themselves.)
In advance of a surge in COVOD-19 patients, expected to occur within the next few weeks, the Glens Falls Hospital has complied with a New York State order to increase the number of staffed beds by 50%, said Agnew.
On its own, and with the state’s permission, the hospital has converted anesthesia machine ventilators for use in Intensive Care Units, said Agnew.
The hospital is marshalling other resources, such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as well, said Agnew.
The Ticonderoga campus of the University of Vermont Health Network – Elizabethtown Community Hospital is currently evaluating patients with COVID-19 symptoms in dedicated space in the Emergency Department, said Elizabeth Rogers.
Given the limited numbers of kits available for testing for the virus, only patients “who require hospital care and frontline health care workers” are being tested for COVID-19, said Rogers.
As of now, the Ticonderoga branch is deploying “ventilator support” only when a patient is being transported from one facility to another, but “we are preparing for the potential situation that we would be providing ventilation care on (the Ticonderoga) campus,” she said.
Rogers said the Medical staff at Ticonderoga does have an adequate supply of PPE, but that the University of Vermont Health Network – Elizabethtown Community Hospital is accepting donations of medical grade N95 masks.
Ray Agnew said the Glens Falls Hospital was also in need of those masks for its health care workers.
Agnew said he was impressed by the support offered hospitals and health care workers by the community, from supplies to expertise and even facilities.
It occurred to Silver Bay YMCA Conference and Family Retreat Center CEO Steve Tamm, for one, that if a surge in COVID-19 patients occurs in the Lake George region, the resources of the local hospitals may be strained.
That’s why he’s offered Silver Bay’s facilities to New York State for use as a temporary hospital, should one be needed in this area.
“I wanted to make sure that our folks in Ti, Hague, Chester, Bolton would have a local temp Hospital if, God forbid, things got worse,” said Tamm. “It was my understanding that local hospitals and health care providers were planning for a lack of hospital beds.”
“Silver Bay, with our own fresh water plant and waste water treatment plant, full kitchen and dining space able to feed and accommodate several hundred people, lodging space with ample bedding plus various large conference spaces that can accommodate a triage or other hospital set-up seemed like the right thing to offer,” Tamm said.
Ray Agnew said Silver bay’s offer was “wonderful.”
The Glens Falls Civic Center, local hotels (including many in Lake George) have also offered space if needed, said Agnew.
“Silver Bay’s is certainly a very generous offer,” said Jane Hooper, a spokeswoman for Hudson Headwaters Health Network, who noted that as a primary care provider, Hudson Headwaters “could support local hospital facilities in a variety of ways.”
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.