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MVHS activates surge plan; nurses plead for more staff

Nurses gathered for a rally outside of St. Elizabeth Medical Center Thursday morning, urging Mohawk Valley Health System officials to address staffing shortages.

Posted: Dec 10, 2020 12:49 PM
Updated: Dec 10, 2020 5:59 PM

UTICA, N.Y. – They made it in the spring, but haven't needed it until now. MVHS says they're in the early stages of their surge plan, which Governor Cuomo directed all hospitals to have, and would increase bed capacity by 25%. 

“Both MVHS hospitals are very busy right now. In the spring, we developed a surge plan which enables us to significantly expand our capacity. The surge plan is designed to be flexible and phased in as patient needs require. Given the increasing needs of our patients, we are in the early stages of our surge plan and increasing our capacity to 25 percent, as mandated by the Governor,” read a statement from MVHS late Thursday afternoon. 

The activation of the plan is to help the system's two hospitals accomodate an ever-growing number of Covid patients. On Wednesday, Oneida County set a new record for hospitalizations of county residents with the virus, at 119. They shattered that record on Thursday, with 133.  

Even as MVHS enacts their surge plan, their nurses rallied outside St. Elizabeth Medical Center Thursday afternoon, pleading with the hospital to do whatever necessary to hire more nurses, saying the surge the governor warned of is here, and they're drowning in it. 

"We are full. We're full. We're bursting at the seams in there," said Sheila Conley, an RN for 37 years. 

Putting beds in offices, conference rooms and other unused spaces is one thing; MVHS nurses say finding the staff to adequately care for the patients in them, is the real challenge. 

"Well, it's certainly gonna be a challenge, I can tell you that," says Conley  "It makes it near impossible when you're handling seven, eight or nine patient assignment on a med surge unit to provide the quality care that we want to provide."

MVHS says they're recruiting traveling nurses and reaching out to former employees and job applicants in order to bolster the front lines of care. 

"A year ago we talked about the shortage. We need more nurses.They need to be competitive in the workforce. And they need to think out of the box and we've got to do it now. We can't wait. We can't have another meeting to have another meeting. It's gotta get done,"says Conley.

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