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With Increase In COVID-19 Admissions, Mount Nittany Medical Center Activates Surge Capacity Plan

Mount Nittany Health has activated planned adjustments to its normal operations following an increase in admissions of COVID-19 patients at the medical center.

As of Friday, Mount Nittany Medical Center has 13 COVID-19-positive inpatients, seven of whom are from long-term care facilities, a spokesperson said. Currently hospitalized COVID patients range in age from 33 to 96.

For the past two weeks, the hospital’s average daily COVID patient census has been between six and eight, and had been as low as three on Sunday. The late-week spike led Mount Nittany to activate its “Surge Capacity Plan.”

The first step in the plan is rescheduling of non-essential and elective procedures and surgeries that require an overnight admission at the medical center. Mount Nittany contacted surgical patients scheduled for Friday and will continue to evaluate on a daily basis based on COVID patient census and overall hospital census.

Current operations will continue for patients who require outpatient surgery, emergency and acute services and are in active treatment at the medical center and physician group practices. All other services remain open.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have been diligently monitoring COVID-19 cases in our community and planning our response if the number of hospitalized cases rose,” Mount Nittany Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Nirmal Joshi said in a statement. “The steps that we are taking now are prudent and realistic to ensure that we have the resources and care available for the people who need us.”

The health system will continue to evaluate the need for further adjustments to operations.

In the spring, Mount Nittany developed a 21-bed specialized unit for treating COVID-positive patients. A spokesperson said that unit is in use for times such as now when the hospital has “more than a handful” of COVID patients.

The unit can expand to meet increases in the number of patients if necessary. 

Mount Nittany Medical Center is licensed for 24 intensive care unit beds and can provide care for up to 40 patients needing ventilators. In total, the hospital is licensed for 260 beds.

Over the past two weeks, Centre County nursing and personal care homes have seen an uptick in cases among residents with 16 new positives, according to Department of Health data. The county’s most recent COVID-19 death, which occurred on Wednesday, was a 90-year-old long-term care facility resident who died at the medical center.

Mount Nittany is working with long-term care facilities and the health department to monitor for possible additional cases and actions being taken to limit spread and exposure.

“It is absolutely critical that we continue to emphasize the importance of wearing a mask, washing hands and social distancing,” Joshi said. “This is a serious disease. These are vulnerable populations. It’s our responsibility as a community to protect each other. This is yet another reminder that we are operating in extraordinary times and the growth of COVID cases and hospitalizations bears consequences.”

Centre County overall has seen an ongoing surge in new COVID-19 cases, with more than 2,800 positives reported by the health department since Sept. 1. The vast majority of those have corresponded to Penn State student testing.

State College Area School District, which monitors testing by community health providers as part of its decision-making process for continuing in-person classes, reported on Thursday that more than 1,500 tests performed over the past week in the county by Geisinger and Mount Nittany Health had a positivity rate of less than 2%.

Through the first quarter of the fiscal year, overall patient volumes at Mount Nittany have remained lower than the same time last year, an ongoing trend during the COVID-19 pandemic. From July through the end of September, inpatient admissions were down 14%, emergency department visits were down 21% and surgical cases were down about 10%.

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About the Author

Geoff Rushton (StateCollege.com)

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.

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