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MNMC, regional partners experiencing ‘pandemic strains’

STATE COLLEGE — As cases of COVID-19 continue to skyrocket in Centre County, one local healthcare facility is facing a crisis.

Continuing high numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations combined with difficulty discharging patients to long-term care facilities are causing strains on Mount Nittany Medical Center and the local health care system that are “unprecedented” during the course of the pandemic, hospital officials said on Thursday.

“We continue to be very concerned about the high number of COVID cases and hospitalizations in the community,” Dr. Upendra Thaker, the hospital’s chief medical officer, said in a news release. “This is impacting our community and our local healthcare providers every day. Cases and hospitalizations must trend downward to reduce the strain on all our local healthcare providers and enable a return to normal operations.”

According to the release, Mount Nittany has had an average daily COVID-19 inpatient census of 32 in October, up from 27 in September and 14 in August. Hospitalizations have followed growing numbers of new cases fueled by the Delta variant of the virus. Centre County had 1,460 new COVID cases in September, compared to 506 in August. So far this month the county has had nearly 700 cases.

A high number of COVID-19 inpatients and “increasing difficulty discharging patients to area long-term care facilities resulting in longer hospital stays,” is “taxing” the medical center’s bed capacity, Thaker said, noting that hospitals around the country have been experiencing those issues throughout the pandemic.

Those two factors have resulted in the medical center having approximately 40 patients each day who under normal circumstances would not still be in the hospital.

“Simply put, this means we have fewer beds to care for other patients. As a result, we’ve unfortunately had to reschedule surgical cases that require a hospital stay and we are experiencing longer service times in our Emergency Department. We understand the disruption this creates for patients and their families,” Thaker said in the release.

Thaker added that Mount Nittany is in regular contact with other regional health systems that have reported experiencing the same problems.

“All of us are postponing surgeries or making other operational changes. Nobody wants to be in that position. Our mission is to do as much as we possibly can for everyone who needs our services. It’s disappointing not to be able to do that,” Thaker said.

Since late August, Mount Nittany also has prohibited visitors at the medical center, except in special circumstances, because of the local rise in cases and hospitalizations.

“We are very proud of the excellent care our team is providing under difficult circumstances,” Thaker said. “They have risen to meet repeated challenges. I know they appreciate your support, patience and understanding. On their behalf, please do everything you can to keep yourself, friends, family and community safe.”

As of Thursday, the hospital had 30 COVID-19 inpatients ranging in age from 25 to 94. Six were fully vaccinated and 24 were not vaccinated.

Mount Nittany Health urged community members to help stop the spread of COVID-19 by getting vaccinated. They also urged the community to social distance, avoid large gatherings, wear a mask and frequently wash your hands.

“We will continue to do everything that we can to serve every patient every day, but as physicians, nurses and healthcare workers on the front lines who have been fighting the pandemic for more than a year and half now, we urge you to do everything you can to prevent unnecessary hospitalizations due to COVID-19,” a statement from the health system said.

Vaccination appointments for ages 12 and older are available through Mount Nittany Health, numerous pharmacies and other healthcare providers.

To find a location for a vaccine, visit vaccines.gov.

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