UR Medicine creates unit to help patients who can’t be moved to nursing homes because of staffing shortages
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The University of Rochester Medical Center has created a new unit dedicated to helping patients who no longer need hospital-specific care, but can’t be moved to a nursing home due to ongoing staffing shortages.
The news was first shared by News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke, who has been covering shortages for months now.
The specific patients are known as Alternative Level of Care (ALC), patients, which means they are no longer in need of acute, hospital-level care. The inability to send these patients to the nursing homes played a role in URMC placing a three-week pause on elective and semi-elective surgeries earlier this month.
At the time of the pause, the system reported 44 ALC patients at Strong Memorial and 98 across the system.
The system said Friday Strong has about 40 ALC patients on any given day, with Highland averaging about 28 patients. The new unit, which opened Wednesday, allowed Strong to help 10-12 patients and can help up to 20 if staffing permits. Highland’s unit is currently on standby and open should its census warrant it.
NEW: @UR_Med has created temporary Alternative Level of Care (ALC) units for patients no longer in need of acute, hospital-level care but who currently cannot be moved to nursing homes because of staffing shortages. @news10nbc— Jennifer Lewke (@WHEC_JLewke) December 17, 2021
As far as staffing goes, UR told Lewke it would be using its own staff.
"Bringing as many ALC patients as possible together on a single unit, staffed appropriately for the level of care they need, frees other nurses to assist elsewhere in the hospital," a Friday update read.
CAPACITY, CAPACITY, CAPACITY
As we’ve been reporting, healthcare facilities, like hospitals and nursing homes, have experienced a two-part problem. Hospitalizations in our region are up, which has added more stress on a system that’s already near crisis.
The reasons for hospital overcrowding are vast. There is an increase in demand for emergency care coupled with the staffing shortage. Then, the NYS vaccine mandate crippled nursing home staffing levels, forcing many of them to close to new admissions; meaning patients who need long-term care or rehabilitation are backing up in hospitals and taking up much-needed beds.
With capacity limited, the New York State Department of Health, in conjunction with Gov. Kathy Hochul, outlined guidance for pausing elective surgery at “limited capacity” hospitals. As mentioned, URMC suspended some surgeries, as did Rochester Regional Health.
In recent weeks, Strong Memorial Hospital, which is under the URMC system, brought in a group of nurses from Northwell Health to take on patient care duties in the hospital’s emergency department and ICU areas. That effort began last Sunday.
Before the nurses were brought in, the state sent in 26 National Guard members to Monroe Community Hospital, which is the county’s nursing home, to help care for patients. The intention of adding the guard was to allow hospitals like Strong to release patients to the nursing home who don’t need to be in the hospital any longer.
With concerns about further crowding hospitals due to the surging Omicron variant, Gov. Hochul implemented a mandate on indoor masking. A number of our counties have said they either don’t have the resources or will not enforce the Governor’s policy. Monroe County Executive Adam Bello supports it and says he’s been fielding calls from businesses and providing advice on how to best handle it.
The mandate is supposed to stand in effect until Jan.15, with the hopes that our area will see a decrease in hospitalizations.
Additionally, Hochul said the state may change the definition of what it means to be "fully vaccinated", expanding the meaning to include getting a booster shot.