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Surge in COVID cases straining North County hospitals

Published: Jan. 8, 2021 at 4:52 PM EST
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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) - Coronavirus case counts continue to climb in New York’s North Country, putting a strain on hospitals’ capacity. Local health officials say the increase stems from household holiday gatherings and they are making a plea to the community to stay home.

“We have set up our hospital incident command,” said Dr. Lisa Mark, the chief medical officer at Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital in Plattsburgh. She says the hospital’s “disaster mode” plan is a stepped up surge plan that helps manage capacity. Level one allows it to reallocate staff and resources to best fit the patient loads. “It’s a challenge, it’s a strain on our staff, it’s a strain on our resources, and at some point you reach your tipping point and it becomes difficult to provide the kind of care you want to provide.”

CVPH currently has 20 COVID patients with two in the ICU and the remainder in the Progressive Care Unit. The ICU has 14 beds, and an ICU expansion, if needed, allows for 30 beds total. The PCU is for patients needing intermediate care and can hold 22 patients -- 24 if expanded. “We have the bulk of our patients requiring an intermediate level of care. Maybe some high-flow oxygen, that’s what we are seeing,” Mark said.

The hospital works daily with nearby Elizabethtown Community Hospital and Alice Hyde Medical Center. Elizabethtown does not have an ICU, so any patient needing one is transferred to CVPH. Alice Hyde has a small capacity of four beds in its ICU, but any patient needing a ventilator is also sent to CVPH.

All of the region’s hospitals are part of the University of Vermont Health Network. Dr. Mark says if CVPH were to exceed capacity, it could transfer patients across the lake to a Vermont hospital, but she says local hospitals are not the only ones facing capacity challenges. “Capacity is a challenge everywhere, this is not unique to upstate New York. They have less COVID patients than we do right now but they’re seeing a surge just like we are,” she said

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