Local Hospitals Over Capacity, Beds Line the Hallway of Emergency Rooms

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — News10NBC has been reporting on hospital overcrowding in our region for months but the issue has become worse as we deal with a surge of Flu, COVID and RSV cases in addition to a shrinking number of nursing home beds in our community. 

Jacqui Burke has a number of medical issues so she’s in and out of the hospital often.  Late last week, she wasn’t feeling well and after getting some tests done, she got a call in the middle of the night, “they said you need to come in, your blood cultures came back and you have an infection in your blood we need you here,” she recalls.

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She rushed to Strong Memorial Hospital, a place she is more than familiar with, “they’ve saved my life more than once, I mean that’s where I got my kidney transplant,” she tells News10NBC.

Burke was admitted through the emergency room and that’s where she stayed from 2:30 a.m. Wednesday morning until 2:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon.  “It was like a third world country…our beds were end to end to end,” she recalls.  In video shared with News10NBC that Burke took, you can see every room is taken and roll-away beds line the hallway on both sides. 

“We’ve had some bad experiences but not to this depth, we always had a room, we always had privacy…. you know I think everybody around me knows my date of birth, my medical history and I know the medical history of people I don’t even know,” she says and on top of that, “I said here I am with a blood infection sitting in a room full of 50 people with God knows what and then what if they get my infection, it’s just that little paper mask isn’t going to save us.”

During the pandemic, emergency rooms across New York State were packed and hospitals were granted special permission to flex space in order to handle the surge of patients, but Burke was shocked to see it’s still allowed, “I would rather be stuck in a very large closet for privacy,” she says, “I mean try to take a shower in a public bathroom, oh my goodness you know I’m trying to clean up in the sink.”

Leaders at Strong Memorial Hospital say capacity is actually a bigger issue now than it was during most of the pandemic, “we have 886 licensed beds and on any given day when we arrive in the morning, we can have upwards of 1000 patients admitted and waiting for a bed,” says CEO Kathy Parrinello. 

Rooms are doubled-up, spaces that don’t traditionally hold patients are now being used for treatment, but leaders admit, it’s still not enough, “our ability to meet demands for elective surgical cases is already strained and a total pause on elective surgeries is possible unless things improve,” says Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Michael Apostolokas. 

One of the main issues causing capacity problems is a backup of patients who are medically stable but need to be placed in a nursing home.  There are not enough nursing home beds in the region to handle the demand, in fact, Monroe County estimates there are 1100 fewer nursing home beds available now compared to before the pandemic. 

In October 2020, Strong Hospital had an average of 20-25 people waiting to be discharged to a nursing home.  In October 2021, the average jumped to about 50 and now in October 2022, there are currently 100 patients at Strong who don’t medically need to be there, but require a nursing home bed that is not currently available.  So, they can’t be moved out, which means other patients can’t be moved up to higher floors and out of the emergency room hallways.