Watertown’s hospital prepares for COVID surge: ‘We’re all very, very ready’

Updated: Dec. 16, 2020 at 5:11 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - As COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide continue to rise, Governor Cuomo is stressing the importance of bed capacity. We’re seeing that here in the North Country, at Samaritan Medical Center, which has seen a spike in hospitalizations.

Since December 6, COVID-19 hospitalizations at Samaritan Medical Center have increased by 9, bringing the number from 4 to 13 in a week and a half.

“We’re continuing to watch that COVID inpatient number and hoping that it doesn’t continue to increase, but fearful that it will,” said Leslie DiStefano, SMC spokesperson.

A new mandate from the Department of Health required all hospitals in New York State to increase bed capacity by 25 percent.

Samaritan doubled that.

“Just a week and a half ago we had 20 dedicated COVID beds. Now we have 30,” said DiStefano.

More COVID beds means more staffing - something DiStefano says is a challenge for every hospital.

“We’ve put the call out to retired nurses. We’ve asked them to come back if they’re interested, work through that process, train people up to where they need to be and give them the skill set needed,” she said.

On Wednesday, state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker announced hospitals must be prepared to achieve 15 percent staffed bed capacity growth within 72 hours if a significant COVID surge occurs.

DiStefano says Samaritan is ready.

“At this point, we’re 8 months in, almost 9. We’re all very, very ready and we’re as prepared as we can be at this point,” she said.

It’s something the hospital needs to be prepared for so the system doesn’t become overwhelmed with COVID-positive patients.

“We’re very nimble because we need to be and I think with anything it’s just the fear of the unknown - what don’t we know, what will tomorrow bring us,” said DiStefano.

To get ready for what tomorrow may bring, DiStefano says Samaritan has a sufficient amount of PPE and the hospital is mandating protective eyewear for all employees.

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