COVID causes emergency room delays at Capital Region hospitals – The Daily Gazette
The three largest hospitals in the Capital Region warned on Friday of longer ER wait times and the state Department of Health urged New Yorkers to take precautions amid the increased community spread of COVID.
COVID infections have been rising in New York City since mid-March and hospitalizations have been rising since late March, especially in the upstate, which has one of the highest daily per capita rates of new infections in the nation. .
The growing number of people seeking treatment for COVID infections and the dwindling ranks of hospital staff available to treat them are causing crowding in emergency department waiting rooms, Albany Medical Center, Ellis Medicine and St. Peter’s Health Partners.
The three had a total of 127 COVID-positive hospital patients as of Thursday.
A positive factor in early to mid-2022 is that sick people are mostly infected with subvariants of COVID that spread quickly but are less likely to cause severe or life-threatening symptoms.
Better treatments are now available for patients who develop severe symptoms, and the hospital survival rate is much better now than at the start of the pandemic, when less was known about COVID and there were few options to treat it.
It is also important to note that the number of new infections confirmed each day is still much lower than in January. The capital region’s average is now 55.6 per 100,000 people each day, down from a peak of 252.4 per day on January 10.
The concern is that the rolling average of new infections in the region fell from 252.4 to 8.7 per day on March 19, but has been rising almost daily since then.
Ellis Medicine’s chief nursing officer, Meredith Robison, said that by importing staff from other departments, the Ellis Hospital emergency department is able to quickly treat those who are critically ill or seriously injured – patients who really need emergency treatment.
But those with less serious conditions, such as cuts and sprains, may have a long wait. They are advised to go to primary care or urgent care offices instead, she said.
“We see a lot of things that could be seen by a primary care or emergency care physician,” she said.
People with real emergencies — shortness of breath, severe chest or abdominal pain, high fever — should always go to the emergency room, she said, and should have confidence in the infection control protocols there.
Dr. Steven Hanks, clinical director of St. Peter’s Health Partners, said the triage process often results in non-emergency patients waiting much of the day to be seen in an emergency department.
“As many people do not expect such long waits, they become increasingly frustrated and agitated and in some cases verbally or even physically abuse our staff,” he said Friday per E-mail.
“We understand that people who visit the emergency department are sick, worried and stressed. However, we ask them and their families for your understanding that our staff are doing their best to care for each patient in a timely manner and to treat everyone in our facilities, including each other, with patience and respect.
Prevention remains the best treatment for COVID.
On Friday, the federal Centers for Disease Control assessed 12 of New York’s 57 counties outside of New York with “average” community levels of COVID 19. The other 45, including the eight counties in the Capital Region, have been classified as “high”.
As a result, the state Department of Health on Friday urged people to wear a mask in indoor public places in high-risk counties, regardless of their vaccination status.
Hanks noted that the omicron variant that infected so many New Yorkers in December and January was relatively mild, resulting in a lower rate of hospitalizations and deaths than previous variants. The current omicron subvariant appears even less potent, he said: SPHP had 51 hospitalized COVID-positive patients on Friday, but half weren’t even showing symptoms and none were in intensive care.
Mild cases of COVID that do not require hospitalization can of course turn into serious infections. Robison said patient education is key to controlling this. Ellis nurses explain to mildly ill patients what to look for if symptoms worsen and what to do about them.
“The treatment options are much better now,” she said.
CDC classifies Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, and Schenectady counties as having high community levels of COVID; it ranks Fulton, Montgomery, and Schoharie counties as average. (The CDC calculates the score based on the rate of cases per 100,000 population, new hospital admissions, and the percentage of local hospital beds occupied by COVID-positive patients.)
New York ranks fourth in the nation for new confirmed infections behind Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Hawaii. Vermont, Connecticut, Maine and New Hampshire are close behind.
New daily infections in Capital Region counties range from 24.1 per 100,000 in Greene County to 70.7 in Warren County on the seven-day rolling average, as of Thursday.
Hospitals in the capital region had 194 COVID-positive patients on Thursday, about 59% of whom were admitted with COVID-related symptoms or complications. The highest patient count so far in 2022 was 432 on January 18 and the lowest was 42 on March 31.
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