October 22, 2021

GCMC plan for coronavirus doubles beds

Guthrie Cortland Medical Center Logo

Guthrie Cortland Medical Center is finalizing a state-mandated plan to double the number of beds devoted to care of people who contract coronavirus, said Dr. Michael Scalzone, chief quality officer for Guthrie, the health care organization that owns the hospital.

Scalzone said today is the state deadline for all hospitals to submit plans, and Guthrie Cortland would submit on time. He works for the Guthrie Clinic in Sayre, Pennsylvania.

The hospital recently announced it plans to create an alternate surge and triage site at the south entrance, where outpatient ambulatory surgery is performed.

Patients would be prepared there for treatment elsewhere in the hospital, but the space could also be used for beds to care for patients, he said.

The hospital recently halted elective surgery to free beds for anticipated coronavirus cases, but the number of beds this would make available was not available Monday. The hospital has 144 acute-care beds with an attached 80-bed residential care facility.

“We have the ability to expand beds internally in places that would not typically have a hospital bed,” Scalzone said.

A Harvard Global Health Institute study projected the need for hospital beds, based on the rate of the progression of coronavirus.

In its mid-case scenario, if the Syracuse region — which includes Cortland — sees year, it will have 950 available hospital beds, but would need 2,400 to cope with COVID-19.

That is 2.4 times the health care system’s capacity.

In the worst case, the researches said, a 60% infection in six months means the Syracuse region would need about nine times the current capacity, or more than 8,000 beds.

In its best-case scenario, a 20% infection rate, the region would be slightly over capacity for six months, but near or within capacity within a year.

But that’s just the number of beds. The number of respirators, ventilators and intensive care beds available at Guthrie Cortland Medical Center were not available Monday from Scalzone.

In some cases, alternatives for treatment, such as anesthesia machine, can be used for some patients, he said.

The hospital complied with a directive from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to all hospitals to create a plan to increase capacity by 50 percent and a plan to increase it by 100 percent is due today, Scalzone said.

If still more beds are needed, patients could be transferred to the Guthrie Clinic in Sayre or other hospitals in the Syracuse area, Scalzone said.

“Depending on the availability of beds, we would direct people in either direction,” he said.

But with a fast-growing and widespread health risk, he said it is unclear what space would be available.

Scalzone emphasized that the hospital will continue to provide care for health issues unrelated to coronavirus. There are no plans for creating additional beds in the community beyond the hospital’s Cortland facility under the plan being devised.

The scramble to add beds is part of a larger effort to line up adequate supplies of ventilators, masks and other medical equipment. Cuomo said the state has enough supplies for today, but cannot make predictions about next week or the week after.

There have been at least 157 deaths in New York, including one Monday in Madison County. And there have been more than 2,500 hospitalizations in the state, with 621 intensive care patients.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.