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UPMC Altoona Hospital Capacity

With COVID cases rising throughout our viewing area, many hospitals have begun to divert patients away, citing capacity concerns.With COVID cases rising throughout our viewing area, many hospitals have begun to divert patients away, citing capacity concerns.

However, amid rumors of overflow, UPMC Altoona says it is not one of them.

We spoke with the hospital’s chief quality officer Wednesday to better understand the situation.

While capacity concerns swirled over the weekend, UPMC officials swiftly crushed that rumor.However, amid rumors of overflow, UPMC Altoona says it is not one of them.

We spoke with the hospital’s chief quality officer Wednesday to better understand the situation.

While capacity concerns swirled over the weekend, UPMC officials swiftly crushed that rumor.

They admit to shifting around resources but are assuring the public that they are more than capable of accepting patients.

“We are not overflowing with patients,” said UPMC West Central Region Chief Quality Officer Dr. David Burwell. “We have a substantial amount of patients in our region without a doubt, our resources are being shifted quite a bit to taking care of COVID patients.”

Burwell says the spike in clientele in ER’s across the UPMC system has to do more with other hospitals opting to divert rather than having issues handling patients themselves.

“Our increase in ER visits at Somerset have more than doubled in the past month, due to the diversion of other neighboring facilities,” Burwell said.

And as of now, they have no plans for diversion themselves.

“So, diversion is something that we do only under certain critical factors, say there was an external emergency, say there was something that there were unsafe conditions, such as limited supplies or these types of things,” Burwell said. “These are not what we have and we are not interested in diverting.”

As for concerns about potential waits in the ER, Dr. Burwell says urgency trumps the first-come-first-serve model.

“If we have patients that are seeking care in our emergency department that may not be emergency-related care, they may experience long wait times, and let me give you an example: Whenever a patient comes to our emergency department, we triage them for their medical contrition and then, we will treat them based upon their need for those conditions,” Burwell said.

And he admits that short-staffing isn’t helping hospitals combat the high intake, but says the staff are going above and beyond to make it work.

“So, staffing shortages are a national challenge,” Burwell explained. “We are definitely not immune to that. We have significant openings as well. So, we are not immune to that. However, I do have to say that our staff are stepping up to the challenge dramatically well. They are doing things such as picking up extra shifts, they’re coming in and taking away time from their families in order to care for this community, so I do have to just give it up for them,”

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