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Mount Nittany Medical Center Continues to See Lower Patient Volumes

by on October 06, 2020 7:45 PM

Mount Nittany Health on Monday reported patient volumes for the first quarter of the fiscal year continue to be lower than the same time last year, an ongoing trend since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For July through September, inpatient admissions were down 14%, emergency department visits were down 21% and surgical cases are down about 10%.

"These results are consistent with the system’s earlier projections that healthcare utilization patterns will continue to be impacted by the ongoing pandemic," a news release from the health system said.

The declines come as COVID-19 cases continue to increase sharply in Centre County, with about 2,500 new cases — mostly corresponding to Penn State student testing — since the beginning of September.

While Mount Nittany Medical Center had had a total of 16 COVID-positive patients admitted in September, the daily census was between two and three with a high of six.

A spokesperson said that so far in October, a total of seven patients with the virus have been admitted to the medical center. On Tuesday morning Mount Nittany had eight COVID-19 inpatients. One was discharged on Tuesday afternoon. The remaining seven range in age from 48 to 96 years old.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Nirmal Joshi said, however, that admission patterns can change quickly.

“Given the rise in cases in the county, we must be diligent with containment efforts in our personal lives and within the health system,” he said in a statement. “We cannot become complacent and we must continue to emphasize the importance of wearing a mask, washing hands and social distancing. We need to remain vigilant, especially with respect to vulnerable populations, and as a health system, we must remain cautious and flexible, ensuring we have the ability to flex our capacity as needed.”

The medical center is licensed for 24 adult intensive care unit beds and as of Tuesday morning 11 were available, according to data from the Department of Health. Of 27 airborne isolation units, 16 were available. Twenty-five of 26 ventilators were available, with one in use by a non-COVID patient.

Facing a $70 million revenue shortfall, Mount Nittany Health announced in June plans to eliminate about 250 jobs — approximately 10 percent of its staff — as patient volumes declined. That followed the elimination of 50 management positions in May. A statement from the health system in June said it did not plan to reduce programs and services and current nurse to patient and nursing assistant to patient staffing ratios will be maintained.

The union representing nearly 1,000 Mount Nittany nurses and health care workers urged administrators to rethink the cuts, saying they feared the impact the cuts will have on quality of care and services.

Mount Nittany Health's release on Tuesday said "the steps taken recently to adjust operations to align with lower volumes have enabled the system to remain financially sound in the face of these challenges."

The health system will continue to monitoring and collaboration with community partners to adapt to changing conditions.

“These continue to be extraordinary times for our entire community,” said Nichole Monica, director of communications. “We’ve all had to adjust and we will all need to continue to respond as the local environment changes. Our commitment is to remain strong when the community needs us.”

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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