GLOVERSVILLE — Nathan Littauer Hospital reached capacity for the third time in a month on Thursday as the hospital began diverting patients on Wednesday evening.
The Fulton County Office of Emergency Management announced on Wednesday night that the Gloversville facility would begin diverting patients to other medical facilities effective at 8 p.m.
By 7 a.m. on Thursday morning, the hospital was off diversion.
Fulton County Emergency Services Director Steven Santa Maria said that a confluence of viruses have been driving patients to the only hospital in the county.
“Based on what we’re hearing out of our county public health office, there’s a tremendous amount of flu going around, RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) going around and our COVID numbers are starting to go up again,” Santa Maria said on Thursday. “So I have a feeling that’s contributing to the number of patients going to the local hospital. It’s probably overburdening the resources that they have available to deal with it.”
Nathan Littauer Vice President for Business Development Geoff Peck, who serves as the hospital’s media spokesperson, said on Thursday that the seasonal flu is steering patients to the facility.
“The flu is having a large contributing factor,” Peck noted on Thursday. “I don’t think we can predict the long-term, but in the short-term I see the flu continuing to be a major factor in patients coming to the hospital.”
The hospital previously went on diversion on Nov. 16 and 30.
“When our only hospital goes on diversion, it certainly creates a strain on the ambulance resources that we have available in the county,” Santa Maria said. “Now, instead of making a short transport to Nathan Littauer Hospital, we’re often traveling greater distances and then potentially being held up at those other locations because they’re busy. Ambulances are a very valuable resource in our county and they’re being taken out of service for an extended period of time. So that further strains the system.”
Peck said the staffing shortages that have afflicted hospitals locally and statewide have contributed to the three diversions the hospital experienced in the last month.
“Yes, there is a staffing shortage,” Peck said of the hospital. “We have a safe operating staff, but we reach a point where we have more patients waiting for beds than we have anticipated bed discharges for the next day. It’s not responsible to continue to take patients without having the capacity to move them to the in-patient units in a timely manner.”
Peck said that by Thursday morning the hospital had enough anticipated patient discharges to match the number of patients waiting for beds from Wednesday.
Santa Maria said the agency will continue to alert the public about any forthcoming diversions at the Gloversville hospital.
“I try to put a blip out on social media and let people know that, ‘Here’s what’s going on and if you don’t really need to go to the hospital and it’s something that can wait for your primary care physician in the morning, you might be better served doing that,’” he said. “It’s by no means saying Nathan Littauer Hospital isn’t doing a great job, but it’s more of an awareness thing for the general public. But if someone needs urgent care, we don’t want to dissuade them from calling 911, so it’s a balancing act.”
Peck said the hospital will continue to monitor the situation in hopes of containing future diversions.
“We do have to take it as it comes,” he said. “It’s all determined by the volume of patients that come into our emergency department on any given day and the acuity of those patients coming in. If they’re sicker and we need to admit more patients, then we end up in a situation where diversion is in front of us. If we’re having a more normal patient flow where we’re discharging folks than we’re admitting, then we can continue to keep moving without problems.”