In response to rising hospitalization rates across the state, Governor Cuomo yesterday advanced his Winter COVID-19 Strategy – outlined during our board presentation last Friday – by directing the Department of Health (DOH) to begin implementing surge & flex guidelines by ordering all hospitals to increase bed capacity by 25%. Stating that he is acting upon recent guidance updates from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), and having Dr. Anthony Fauci as a guest at his press conference, Governor Cuomo also announced forthcoming restrictions to indoor dining if a region’s hospitalization rate does not stabilize over the next five days, noting that the state’s highest hospitalization rates are upstate.
Governor Cuomo: Hospitals Must Flex up to 25% Bed Capacity
The Surge and Flex emergency regulation that took effect August 6 authorizes the Commissioner of Health to direct health care facilities to increase – by at least 50%, and up to 100% – the number of acute care beds and/or change the service categories of certified beds. The Governor’s statements and press release yesterday call for hospitals to increase capacity by 25% now, while preparing to activate an additional 25% reserve capacity. DOH informed IHA this morning that they are actively working on formal guidance regarding the 25% hospital bed capacity directive which will contain details regarding timeframe for compliance.
Department of Health Guidance
Additionally, DOH is planning to change the HERDS survey to accommodate the guidance, including new definitions of operational beds, the timeframe by which beds will be staffed and necessary equipment and infrastructure put in place. They will also be resuming brief, 15-minute hospital HERDS survey calls – Monday through Friday – and requiring hospital ventilator use and supply data be provided in the HERDS survey every Tuesday.
Hospital Staffing Levels: Renewed State Focus
In addition, the Governor has been vocal regarding his concern for staffing levels in hospitals, and included in his Winter COVID-19 Strategy a statement that hospitals must call upon retired doctors and nurses to return to the industry. Last night, the Governor issued a document stating that retired physicians and registered nurses are to return and that certifications would be renewed at no cost. DOH’s volunteer portal is the mechanism by which individuals will submit their information. IHA has been in communication with the Governor’s office, DOH, Division of the Budget and both houses of the State Legislature to share data regarding healthcare workforce shortages – both before and during the pandemic – throughout our upstate membership.