Rochester-area healthcare systems getting creative to address staffing shortages

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Rochester-area healthcare providers say they’re getting creative to deal with backups and staff shortages that are leaving patients waiting in emergency rooms to get beds in hospitals.

Rochester General Hospital has now erected a tent to provide more space and officials say they’re trying everything else they can think of too.

"Right now, we are in crisis mode,” exclaimed Reg Allen, Chief Executive Officer at CHS Mobile Integrated Health Care. “And, in crisis mode, you do whatever you can to resolve today’s issues, as you are working to get long-term plans. That’s all we can do.”

Allen said services like his are constantly adjusting for congestion at the four hospitals of Rochester’s two health systems.

So is Rochester General Hospital, which has now set up a tent to handle possible overflows of patients waiting to get out of the emergency room into hospital beds.

"We are at the mercy, a bit, of our capacity in the system at this time,” explained Rochester Regional Health Chairman of Emergency Medicine Keith Grams. "We are erecting an external structure to support the needs of our community and extend the hospital footprint."

As News10NBC has been reporting, delays in patients being moved from inpatient hospitals to facilities like nursing homes, home care and even halfway houses have created a shortage of beds in hospitals which has left emergency room patients waiting.

"You could be in the ED for48 hours, 72 hours, while they’re trying to find a bed for you,” Allen said. “Because they can’t get the people out."

Rochester General’s new tent is just one of what Emergency Medicine director Keith Gram calls "MacGyverisms,” after the ultra-creative TV character MacGyver, as administrators try to get creative to manage tight staff and space, and patient backups.

Allen says county health leaders have been looking into directing some 911 calls to a possible special nursing line to give callers faster, less involved medical guidance and possibly a referral to an urgent care accessible by car or Uber, instead of involving an ambulance crew and a trip to a congested ER.

And some EMS services have been using text groups to route ambulances to hospitals with the shortest wait times

Officials say the backlogs are literally nationwide and it’ll take more time and more long waits for them to work out.

“As soon as that pipeline to the nursing home beds starts to turn back on, and residents can start to move into a more appropriate setting, I think you’ll see those wait times decrease,” predicted Monroe County Executive Adam Bello.

Healthcare leaders from around Monroe County, and the state have been getting together in brainstorming sessions to deal with the backlogs. Another get-together is planned for next week.