Yesterday, the Register-Star ran an article about the situation at the hospital: "CMH diverts ER patients." The article quotes a statement from CMH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Clifford Belden:
"Numerous factors impacting the entire nation are creating unprecedented challenges for health care providers. . . . Top among these factors are the continued resurgence of COVID-19 cases and a critical shortage of clinical staff. Unfortunately, our region is not immune from these challenges."
Many hospitals, including CMH, are seeing a record number of patients with flu or COVID-like symptoms, Belden said.
"While at the same time, pre-existing shortages of clinical staff, combination with normal attrition and government actions such as the vaccine mandate, have triggered an increase in hospital staff resignations across the nation, and here at home," Belden said.
On Tuesday night, Mayor Kamal Johnson asked the following question on the CMH Discussion Board Facebook page: "Anything I can do to help support with everything going on?" His question prompted many comments describing understaffing, an overburdened workforce, lack of retention incentives, and burnout. In a comment of his own, Johnson clarified, "The council tonight mentioned possibly reaching out to the Governor for support which I don't mind doing. I just need some details of what's needed. I know the mandate is causing issues across the nation."
Update: Mayor Kamal Johnson reported on the CMH Discussion Board that he had sent the following email to "the Congressman, Senator, and Assembly":
I am reaching out because working conditions at Columbia Memorial Hospital have reached a critical point where the facility is not longer able to provide adequate and timely healthcare services for the community and region. The short-staffing issue extends to CMH's rapid care facilities: the center in Copake has dropped its hours to just 3 days per week, from 9 am to 3 pm.
Due to extreme short-staffing, CMH's Emergency Department was out on diversion both September 20 and 22. Our office has received reports that the patient to nurse ratio had been consistently reaching 7:1--while allowed by the state under emergency conditions, this is completely unsafe for hospital staff. Recently one aide was tasked with taking care of an entire unit; another reported handling five admissions in one night, with four of them discharged the following morning due to lack of patient space. One patient described having to wait a full 5 months to complete a critical surgery.
While a small percentage of recent staff departures have been accredited to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, the vast majority cite pay and work environment as their main reason for leaving CMH. Per diem opportunities have been suspended, and morale among staff has plummeted. Staff are working without breaks and only a single 10-minute lunch due to the ratio issue and the need to put the patients before their own needs. Between 30-40 employees have left in the past couple of months. One current employee related that they are even considering leaving CMH for a position with less pay solely to escape the working conditions in Hudson.
As leaders in this region, restoring our local healthcare facilities to functioning capacity is an urgent and necessary task. I urge that we come together to find a solution to this ongoing crisis at Columbia Memorial Health.