Seven people were diverted to other hospitals over 20 hours Sunday and Monday after the state Health Department told Guthrie Cortland Medical Center officials its emergency department had too many patients.
“Despite Guthrie’s ongoing efforts to make inpatient beds available, including the postponement of non-emergent surgeries, Guthrie Cortland Medical Center was recently required by the New York State Department of Health to place its emergency department on temporary diversion due to an inpatient capacity that exceeded 85%,” states a news release from the hospital Tuesday morning.
The influx was due to increased coronavirus hospitalizations in the county and common everyday workload cases seen this time of year, said Dr. David E. Ristedt, the hospital’s chief medical officer.
The Cortland County Health Department was monitoring 1,106 patients Monday, 281 of them confirmed positive. Twenty-seven people are hospitalized, bringing to 92 the number hospitalized since the pandemic began.
Ristedt said there are also restrictions on who can be discharged and when.
“In the end it ends up being the perfect storm,” Ristedt said.
The seven people taken to other hospitals were in stable condition for transport, Ristedt said, noting anyone not stable to be transported would’ve been seen at the hospital and anyone who walked into the emergency room would’ve been taken care of.
Two patients were taken to Guthrie Corning Hospital and all others were transported to Binghamton General, Guthrie Robert Packer, Cayuga Medical Center, Upstate University Hospital and Golisano Children’s Hospital.
According to the release, Guthrie has made several efforts to increase bed availability in the facility, including postponing non-emergency surgeries.
But it’s not just about having enough beds for people, it’s also about having the medical staff to take care of the patients, Ristedt said.
“As we get additional nursing staff or other healthcare team members on board, we could potentially be able to expand,” Ristedt said.
The hospital previously had 36 medical or surgical and intensive care unit beds and with current surge capacity it has 57 beds, the hospital reports.
However, Ristedt said the chance of a diversion happening again is a possibility, but a regional approach is being taken to ensure hospitals don’t become overwhelmed.
“One of the key things I think everyone needs to understand is this isn’t just a Guthrie Cortland concern,” Ristedt said. “We are part of the greater region here and we have some great regional partners we’ve been in contact with on almost a daily basis and they have been very accommodating in taking our patients and we have been able to take patients from other areas as well.”
Ristedt also said a Guthrie Cortland nurse who addressed the influx of patients at the hospital in a social media post was talking out over concerns with individual health and making sure people are doing what they can to stay healthy.
“At least what I saw in the spirit of the post was a concern for the individuals’ health, that they should avoid getting sick, if at all possible, do the right things at home, make sure you’re wearing your mask, six-foot distances, washing your hands, doing those things to try and avoid coming to the emergency room.”
Ristedt also said people should still seek emergency medical care if they need it.
“If you are sick enough to require emergency services, don’t wait to get health care,” he said. “Come in, let us take care of you. We’ll do the best we can, as we always do, with every patient who walks through the door.”