December 8, 2021

GCMC plans for virus patients

Guthrie Cortland Medical Center Logo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday said the number of COVID-19 patients is expected to exceed the capacity of the state’s hospitals to handle them, as the novel coronavirus continues to spread and more people become seriously ill.

Cuomo further called for the federal government to send in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build temporary hospital bed space.

Cortland County has one hospital: Guthrie Cortland Medical Center. What is its capacity for handling coronavirus patients, and what is being done to prepare for the near-future that Cuomo outlined Monday?

“I want to assure the community that the staff at Guthrie Cortland Medical Center has been working around the clock to respond to the challenges facing us with COVID-19,” said Jennifer Yartym, hospital president, in a statement. “Our patient safety, emergency preparedness, infection prevention and clinical teams all have specific, internal plans to handle this situation, if and when this virus does arrive in our area. We continue to work with manufacturers to manage and track the needed medical supplies for evaluation and treatment of patients and have all appropriate equipment, personnel and facilities to meet the needs of our patients and community.”

Yartym said the hospital’s alternate surge/triage site is the hospital south entrance — the outpatient ambulatory surgery location.

The Guthrie system has been working on emergency plans since Jan. 27, said Michael Stitley, emergency preparedness coordinator for Guthrie Robert Packer Hospital, the flagship hospital of the Guthrie system, of which the Cortland hospital is a part.

“We do have plans in place,” Stitley said. “Generally speaking, we are prepared for an influx.”

Stitley said the emergency planning challenges posed by COVID-19 are unprecedented.

“This type of surge is really unique. This is a national event,” he said. “It’s really the first time as a country we’re ever been faced with something like this. Some of the plans that we’ve written were really designed for a mass casualty event.”

Neither Yartym nor any other hospital official has yet provided any specifics on the available respirators, ventilators, Intensive Care Unit beds or testing kits in response to direct questions about these numbers.

Cortland County Public Health Director Catherine Feuerherm said that current measures to limit social contact are essential in preventing the hospital from receiving an influx of patients.

“We know that we’re not going to have enough ICU beds and we’re not going to have
enough ventilators if we can’t keep people out of the hospital,” Feuerherm said. “So that again is the whole rational behind this movement restriction … and social distancing.”

Mayor Brian Tobin said city officials would work with the hospital to identify additional hospital bed space if it is required.

“If and when there comes a need, we will work with them to fulfill their need,” Tobin said.

“At times like this, if there is a need by the hospital or TLC (Emergency Medical Services) for any resources, … we all will do whatever we can to provide said resources.”