National Guard medics to fill staffing shortages at MVHS

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As news of the new omicron variant of COVID-19 hitting spots in the United States broke on Thursday, so too did the news of National Guard members being requested to help fill staffing shortages at the Mohawk Valley Health System — due to compliance issues with state-ordered COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

According to MVHS, the state offered 10 National Guard medics — available through mid-January — to assist in capacity for long-term care.

Further, 10 additional professionals to serve as certified nursing assistants will add to the rehabilitation nursing center capacity.

In a Thursday statement from Darlene Stromstad, President and CEO of Mohawk Valley Health System said that the hospital system - like others across New York - had been challenged by staff shortages at the same time as an increase in acutely ill patients seeking care.

“This has led to unprecedented numbers of patients seeking care in our Emergency Departments as well as demand for inpatient stays,” she stated.

To remedy the issue, the hospital system is continually looking for medical staff to fill roles.

“An important priority at MVHS is to alleviate the pressure on our workforce that has been on the front lines of COVID for nearly two years. Any additional staff that can help in any way is welcomed and appreciated,” Stromstad said, adding, “The challenge for identifying adequate staffing has carried through to other areas of the health system including our long-term care facility, MVHS Rehabilitation and Nursing Center … (capacity) has been limited due to lack of staff. This is creating a backlog of patients in our two hospitals who are waiting for long-term care beds.”

Previous remarks

Leading up to the announcement of National Guard members soon to be working at MVHS, Stromstad spoke of recent staffing challenges, in a separate statement this week.

“MVHS Emergency Departments (ED) have been extremely busy over the past few weeks. We are seeing an increase in the number of people coming in for COVID testing and less serious illnesses and injuries which has created the very busy EDs and significantly increased wait times for non-emergent conditions. Last evening, this resulted in a large number of patients seeking care in both MVHS hospital EDs. We are grateful that area EMS providers were able to assist and support in treating these patients in what was an atypical situation.

MVHS strongly encourages members of the community to only use the EDs for emergencies such as stroke, heart attack, trauma,” she noted.

Her remarks continued, “MVHS, like hospitals across Central and Upstate New York, has been challenged by workforce shortages which are occurring at the same time that there has been a dramatic increase in acutely ill patients seeking care and treatment as well as a recent uptick in the number of COVID patients. This has led to unprecedented numbers of patients seeking care in the Emergency Departments and being treated as inpatients in our hospitals.”

Numbers

There were 49 COVID-19-related deaths across the state on Wednesday and the statewide seven-day average infection positivity rate was measured at 4.61%, according to information from Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office. The governor’s office also noted that the Mohawk Valley region’s seven-day positivity rate was 8.9%.

Locally, Oneida County tallied 240 new positive cases and one new virus-related death on Wednesday as the county’s positivity rate was measured at 8.7%.

Also on Wednesday, there were 99 Oneida County residents hospitalized, 66 were unvaccinated and 33 were vaccinated. Of this figure, there were 70 patients at Mohawk Valley Health System, 21 at Rome Health and eight hospitalized outside the county.

‘Boost Up, New York’ campaign

Thursday marked the launch of the statewide, “Boost Up, New York” campaign to urge New York adults to get their booster dose for better protection against COVID-19, according to information from Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office.

“With this campaign, we are getting the message out with banners and displays to get people excited about booster shots as they get ready to celebrate the holidays,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement. “If you are over 18, you can get the free booster dose immediately. It will give you that extra protection, and it also helps to protect your loved ones. This is the ultimate act of kindness that you can exercise this holiday season.”

The “Boost Up, New York” campaign materials will include a QR code or hyperlink so New Yorkers have easy-to-access scheduling information, as well as resources for those looking to learn more about the importance of getting a booster. The program will kick-off December 6 and run for four weeks.

Ski for Free

A new “Ski for Free” COVID-19 vaccine incentive sweepstakes for children ages five to 11 and booster shot recipients has been launched by the state. 

“The six-week sweepstakes - the beginning of which will be announced in the coming days - is intended to bolster vaccination rates among children ages 5 to 11 as well as individuals eligible to receive a COVID-19 booster dose. Eligible New Yorkers will be able to enter a random drawing for free lift tickets to participating mountains, thanks to Ski Areas of New York and the Olympic Regional Development Authority,” a release notes.

“Our new ‘Ski for Free’ incentive for children and booster recipients allows New Yorkers to take full advantage of our state’s incredible mountains while protecting themselves and their loved ones from this pandemic,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement. “The vaccine is our best weapon in the fight against COVID-19 and we need to encourage every eligible New Yorker to get their shot, whether it be a first dose, second dose, or booster.”  

Participating mountains include Woods Valley in Westernville.

For more information, visit: https://www.governor.ny.gov/programs/ski-free-vaccine-incentive

COVID-19 information links

• New York State’s COVID-19 data has been collected in one online spot at: https://on.ny.gov/3rw82oG

• In Oneida County, vaccine appointments and walk-ins are available at county-operated sites. To book an appointment, visit www.ocgov.net.

• Scheduling a vaccine appointment can also be completed at: vaccines.gov.

• COVID-19 case numbers and vaccination rates are available on Oneida County’s online Dashboard at: https://bit.ly/3A85tLp

• To see COVID-19 information for Madison County, visit: https://on.ny.gov/3je8vr0

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