Mount Nittany Medical Center is further reducing surgical care services as the hospital continues to experience record numbers of COVID-19 inpatients and the region sees what a hospital official called an ‘alarming’ rise in COVID-19 cases. ‘
All elective surgeries and procedures, which includes elective cardiac procedures at the medical center, are canceled through the end of January, Mount Nittany Health announced on Wednesday. The hospital previously had canceled elective surgeries through Jan. 11.
Emergency surgical care and cardiac care will continue to be provided. No changes are currently planned for the outpatient surgery center, but the hospital will continue to evaluate its ability to conduct normal operations.
The move comes at the end of a month in which the medical center admitted its highest number, by far, of COVID-19 patients to date. Since Dec. 1, Mount Nittany has admitted 239 COVID patients, with an average census of 48 COVID inpatients per day.
In November, the hospital admitted 143 COVID patients and had an average daily census of 22. Mount Nittany admitted 58 COVID patients in October and 16 in September.
Hospitalizations have continued to rise throughout December. On Wednesday, the medical center had 60 COVID inpatients ranging in age from 29 to 100. That total was down from 66 on Tuesday. In the past seven days, the average daily census climbed to 57 COVID inpatients.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Nirmal Joshi said in a statement that the daily COVID inpatient census spiked to nearly 70 several times in the past few days. On Wednesday, 40 percent of the hospital’s total patients are COVID-positive and Joshi said it is possible the numbers will continue to climb.
‘Our local trends continue to be alarming,’ Joshi said. ‘It is important to be clear that the continued high number of COVID cases in the community means we cannot provide our normal range of services. We are doing everything that we can to preserve as many services as possible, but like every other hospital and healthcare system, there are limits.’
Centre County has recorded 431 more cases in December than in November, according to Pennsylvania Department of Health data. Since the first positive was reported in March, Centre County has had 8,910 cases. More than half of those — 4,593 — have been reported in November and December.
‘Daily monitoring will continue and it’s possible further reductions will be needed as we adjust and balance care for COVID hospitalized patients and those needing other types of medical care unless we see the cases go down,’ Joshi said.
The start of COVID-19 vaccinations among local health care workers offers hope, Joshi said, but he added that reducing community spread of the virus remains critical.
Mount Nittany Health received its first shipment of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine two weeks ago and administered it to 1,223 of its staff and providers. This week, the health system received its first 1,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine and will continue to vaccinate its employees as well as a limited number of community health care workers from Centre Volunteers in Medicine, Centre County emergency medical personnel, physicians, dentists and school nurses.
‘It is uncertain when vaccines will be available to the general public, so please remain vigilant by consistently wearing a mask, frequent hand washing and maintaining social distance,’ Joshi said. ‘These measures are especially important during the New Year holiday as we continue to see an alarming rise in COVID cases and subsequent hospitalizations.”