Thursday, September 23, 2021

The Situation at CMH

At the Common Council meeting on Tuesday, Alderman Dominic Merante (Fifth Ward) brought up a problem occurring at Columbia Memorial Hospital: ambulances coming to the hospital having to wait to discharge their patients or being sent to other hospitals. He attributed this to a shortage of staff and urged, "The City needs to figure out how to support CMH." For reasons not entirely clear, Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) mentioned the Clean Slate Initiative. Alderman Malachi Walker suggested that the vaccine "mandation" was the reason people were leaving. Merante expressed the opinion that the situation might require bringing in the National Guard Medical Unit.

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.


  1. It has been obvious to me for a few years that CMH has some serious dysfunction issues. Everyone I know has a horror story or two about being a patient there, as I do. The lights in their Columbia Street parking lot stay on 24/7, and I first notified them of this 2 years ago, but no one seems to care. There is a crater of a pothole at the end of their eastern-most driveway on Columbia, 2 feet from the sidewalk, which has been there for at least a year. The cone inside the hole disappeared long ago. No one seems to care. Portions of the sidewalk along the hospital on Columbia are scary bad. No one seems to care. I have gotten good care at CMH, important work on my body, and I hope that continues, but I could see why those working there, the lower level employees, might have had enough of the unprofessionalism and dysfunction which appears to be causing the exodus.

  2. Can you please explain why you have called out the obvious mistake of saying 'mandation' when it is 100% clear what they meant?

    Moving forward will you also be recording into your blog every time a white member of the council misspeaks even though we know exactly what it was they intended to say?

    You really need to do better. You have a big audience. It is 2021.

    1. I am a stickler about language. When someone feels compelled to add a noun-forming suffix to a word that is already a noun, I will note it. If I didn't, people might think it was a real word, because an alderman had used it, and I quoted it.

    2. The sentence would have been clearer if you had not quoted him directly but just used the word he meant, mandate. By quoting his mistake directly, the only effect is to either humiliate him or other him or both. Claiming that the choice is beneficial to your readers who may have otherwise thought it was a real word is insulting to your readers and comes across as defensive and disingenuous.

    3. I wasn't aware that trolls now came in anonymous priss flavors.

    4. Voters are entitled to know when an elected official gaffes whether for their edification or amusement. For all we know the alderman used a malapropism to get some column inches.

  3. Columbia Green Medical is a subsidiary of Albany Medical Center. Albany Med sounds like they are starving us.

    I was on the board of the hospital when it was independent. Some directors there made the decision to merge for financial reasons, even though the finances of the hospital were fine.

    Now we have a "foreign" management. Call the Directors of Albany Med, and write letters, since our local hospital here has no control.