ALBANY — Albany Medical Center has begun treating COVID-19 cases from outside the region, with 14 downstate patients arriving at the Capital Region’s largest hospital late Tuesday.
It is the first of what may be many such transfers, as downstate hospitals are growing stressed by the pandemic, which is hitting the New York City area hardest so far.
Albany Med and the several other Capital Region hospitals that are taking a team-based approach to the crisis have indicated they will accept transfers, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo has indicated the state Department of Health will be seeking to make such transfers from downstate to upstate as needed.
Cuomo also has called on upstate hospitals to send supplies and personnel downstate; Albany Med has not commented on that idea, even as it was announcing its decision to take in downstate patients and then announcing it had done so.
Albany Med said the 14 patients all have confirmed or suspected cases of the virus, and will be treated with the same precautions as other COVID-19 patients. Counting the transfers, the hospital had 39 confirmed inpatient cases Wednesday, up from 25 on Tuesday.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Fred Venditti said Jamaica Hospital and Flushing Hospital in Queens reached out Tuesday and said they needed help with an influx of patients in their emergency department. “We agreed as we would agree to any transfer of patients into our system,” he said.
CEO Dr. Dennis McKenna said providing care to those who need it is the very core of Albany Medical Center’s mission, and in some situations, even its obligation under federal law. It took in 16,000 transfers last year.
Both said Albany Med still has extensive capacity for more patients from this region and beyond.
Asked Wednesday about the transfer, Cuomo told reporters it was appreciated, but not orchestrated by the state. The state Department of Health will be moving patients first within hospital systems in the New York City area, then between systems there if needed, and finally moving them upstate if downstate hospitals are overwhelmed.
That point was not here as of Wednesday, the governor said.
“The hospitals have been very cooperative and I want to thank them very much,” he added.
Other Capital Region hospitals have indicated they are ready to accept out-of-region COVID-19 patients if needed and if they have capacity.
Ellis Medicine, which had 21 confirmed COVID patients and seven more possibly infected admitted as of Wednesday said it has not taken in any downstate transfers but will.
The 438-bed Ellis system is at Phase I surge capacity of about 660 beds, and can go to Phase II — 880 beds — if need be. Not all the beds would be suitable for COVID patients; most of the 28 current patients are being cared for now in C Wing, where there is a former ICU suitable for the most severely ill patients.
In a statement Wednesday, Ellis’ top executives said:
“In response to the needs of our fellow New Yorkers and healthcare workers downstate, Ellis Medicine is ready and willing to accept transfer patients from New York City. We are joining our neighboring hospitals in the Capital Region in accepting these patients, should the need arise, as part of our coordinated regional response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Physicians, nurses and staff throughout the Ellis family share a sense of duty and moral obligation to care for all patients who need us, and assist our fellow healthcare workers outside the region. … We cannot respond to this virus facility-by-facility, but must do so as a broad community. This virus does not recognize geographic borders, and as caregivers, we recognize that supporting fellow New Yorkers and Americans fits squarely with our mission.”
- Saratoga Hospital said Tuesday it would take in transfers as needed.
- Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville said it hasn’t gotten a call for transfers but is getting ready for multiple scenarios of how the pandemic would play out. There still isn’t a local surge of patients — Fulton County had just two confirmed cases as of Wednesday — but the hospital’s focus would be on treating community members if there is a surge.
- St. Mary’s Healthcare in Amsterdam is working in coordination with the region’s other hospitals and with the state, and it said: “When the need to expand our response to accept transfers from outside our region occurs, we are ready and willing to participate. While we may see patient transfers from outside our region, we will continue to focus attention on the current and projected COVID-19 response needed in our area. St. Mary’s and our associates have been preparing for weeks.”
- St. Peter’s Health Partners, operator of four hospitals in three counties, said it would give priority to local community members if there is a surge but also take transfers if possible: “We feel it is our moral duty to help those who are suffering, including our fellow health care workers. Therefore, we stand ready and willing to accept transfer patients from New York City, should the need arise. At this point, however, we have not been asked to do so. If and when that time comes, we would continue to make our community cases our priority.”