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High COVID-19 Numbers Continue To Strain Mount Nittany Medical Center As Hospital Diverts Emergency Patients

Mount Nittany Medical Center was temporarily diverting some emergency department patients on Thursday night as Centre County’s only hospital strains to manage the impacts of steadily rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

“Mount Nittany Medical Center currently is not accepting ambulances at our emergency department,” Dr. Upendra Thaker, chief medical officer, said in a statement on Thursday night. “This is a consequence of the trends we have been noting in recent weeks, namely the ongoing elevated levels of COVID transmission in the community, high numbers of COVID hospitalizations, and continued difficulty in discharging patients to area long-term care facilities due to their capacity constraints.”

It was not yet clear when Mount Nittany’s emergency department would resume accepting ambulances.

“It is our goal to return to normal operations as soon as possible,” Thaker said.

The Southern Alleghenies EMS Council wrote on Facebook that ambulances were directed to go to the next closest emergency department because Mount Nittany was experiencing “an overwhelming number of patients seeking emergency care.”

Mount Nittany had 53 COVID-19 inpatients as of noon Thursday, a steep number for the 250-bed acute care hospital. Seven were in intensive care and on ventilators.

Thaker and other Mount Nittany officials have been warning for months about the impacts of continuing high COVID-19 cases on the local health system.

On Nov. 24, the day before Thanksgiving, a Mount Nittany Health statement said the medical center “is not experiencing any relief from the effects of the pandemic.” At that point, the medical center had 122 COVID-19 admissions in November and an average daily COVID inpatient census of 32 — a 60% increase over November 2020.

“The situation is creating longer wait times in the emergency department compared to normal and requiring the medical center to postpone some surgeries that require inpatient stays,” according to the statement last week.

Thaker urged community members to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and take precautionary measures to prevent and reduce transmission of the virus, especially as the peak period for flu and other respiratory illnesses begins.

“Mount Nittany Medical Center is committed to doing everything we can to serve every patient every day,” he said last week. “We are here for the community, and we are asking for your help.”

Centre County, like the rest of Pennsylvania, remains at the highest level for community transmission of COVID-19 on the Centers for Disease Control scale.

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have continued to climb locally and statewide. On Thursday, Pennsylvania reported more than 9,000 new cases, its most since early January. With the number of statewide COVID-19 inpatients approaching 4,000 this week, hospitalizations for the virus have also been at their highest level since January.

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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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