COVID-19 is surging across the country and the increased numbers we are seeing in our own community are certainly a cause for concern. Even with the prospects for a vaccine looking good, the virus will be part of our lives for at least several months and perhaps longer.
Like many hospitals across the country, we are experiencing record high numbers of COVID hospitalizations at Mount Nittany Medical Center. It is very important that we continue to take steps as a community to diminish further spread and to help manage the impact on health care providers and the health care system. Our outstanding team is doing everything possible to care for the increasing number of COVID patients while also providing access for those who need general medical or surgical care.
Our surge planning – the term we use to cover the steps we take as the number of COVID patients fluctuates - reflects what we’ve learned about the virus over the past eight months. It is important to note that we may use a dedicated COVID unit and also place COVID patients in other hospital rooms – in a private room or, on rare occasions, in a room with another COVID positive patient – in whatever approach enables us to safely care for as many COVID and non-COVID patients as possible. Our patient placement follows or exceeds CDC guidelines while enabling us to keep as many services operational as possible.
While our goal is always to have all services open, the high level of COVID hospitalizations has resulted in the need to make periodic adjustments to surgical schedules based on operating conditions. We will continue to take these steps as long as COVID case counts and hospitalizations remain high.
We have also implemented several safety practices, including COVID testing for patients three days prior to surgery, COVID testing for women preparing to deliver a baby, and screening, including a temperature check, for all patients admitted to the hospital.
In addition, we have also placed temporary restrictions on visitors at all Mount Nittany Health locations and require patients, staff and visitors to wear a mask. In an effort to limit the number of people in other Mount Nittany Health facilities, including the emergency department, Physician Group and outpatient locations, we are permitting only one caregiver to accompany the patient.
This is a challenging time for everyone in our community, particularly our patients and front-line workers. We are providing frequent updates through the media, social media and our website on where things stand in the community, the numbers of cases we are seeing at our health system, and our perspective on recent trends and how people can protect themselves.
We know the community counts on us to remain strong and to take every measure we can to provide solid, reliable information and to protect their health and well-being. We take that trust very seriously and are committed to living up to it.
At the same time, we need your help and are asking everyone to do their part and take precautions that reduce the spread of the virus. This is especially important during holiday season – a time when we would normally be traveling and gathering with loved ones. Please remember: wear a mask, wash your hands frequently, and social distance as much as possible. We encourage you to avoid large gatherings and choose approaches that protect you and your family’s health and safety. We all need to do what we can to keep ourselves and each other safe.