Warren General Hospital Keeping an Eye on Capacity as Increase in COVID-19 Patients Coincides with Normal Seasonal Change

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WARREN, Pa. – Warren General Hospital is keeping an eye on its capacity with both an increase of COVID-19 patients and a normal seasonal change in inpatient volume.

“Warren General has entered our season change in inpatient volume,” Joseph Akif, Chief Operating Officer/Chief Nursing Officer, said. “The introduction of COVID-afflicted patients creates a new dimension. Inpatient capacity has been impacted in selected departments. Our staff is providing care to patients and meeting their needs. As we do every day, we continually reevaluate our bed capacity and placement.”

Akif said that as of Wednesday morning, there were 18 patients with COVID-19 and the hospital is treating them in a separate area.

“(The COVID) patients are being cared for in a dedicated unit separate from the general inpatient population,” Akif said.

Akif said the number of patients in the hospital changes all the time, and because of that patients in the emergency room may have to wait for a bed.

“The number of patients in the hospital literally changes by the hour,” Akif said. “There will be times that patients in the Emergency Department that require admission will have to wait as a patient in the hospital is being discharged to make room for new admissions.”

Akif said there are times when patients in the Emergency Department are transferred to other hospitals due to “clinical needs or a lengthened wait for inpatient placement” and those transfers have needed to happen on “several” days.

“Based on the flow of existing patients, this may occur quickly, or take a little longer,” Akif said. “We have encountered several days when these transfers are necessary.”

Akif said the hospital asks for patience from patients and their families.

“As we coordinate inpatient placement or transfer to another facility, this will take time,” Akif said. “The entire healthcare system is experiencing challenges with capacity and placement. As I mentioned previously, even without COVID, this is a seasonal affect that hospitals would have already faced. Please be assured that each patient is being cared for and watched.”

According to Akif, Warren General will move staff from one department to another if the need arises.

“When one department gets full, staff from other departments are redirected to assist their peers and keep care flowing,” Akif said.

Akif’s comments came as community leaders have been raising the alarm about the increase in COVID-19 cases in Warren County.

On Monday, Dec. 7, the Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry released a statement that among other things raised the concern of the hospital’s COVID-19 ward “filling up rapidly.”

“All regional hospitals are in similar situations regarding available admittance capacities,” the release said. “Only the most severe cases are being accepted for transfer to the Erie facilities (St. Vincent and Hamot). Transfer times are long, often taking up to 24 hours to complete.”

Warren Mayor Maurice Cashman, who also serves on the WCCBI Board of Directors, echoed those concerns in an e-mail to yourdailylocal.com.

“I received an update from the Warren General Hospital for the first time on Monday, only as a member of the WCCBI Board of Directors,” Cashman, who has suspended all in person City Council meetings for the foreseeable future, said. “The update stated that 17 of the 18 beds available for COVID patients were occupied (editor’s note – it is possible that Warren General has added more COVID-19 beds since that report). I have to date not received any other updates. Other than that I have been following updates on (media outlets).”

At the Monday, Dec. 7, Warren County School District Board of Directors meeting, school board member Joe Colosimo, who admitted to at one point being “a non-believer” in COVID-19, said what he is hearing concerns him, especially after talking to a “high-ranking” member of the ER staff at Warren General.

“The phraseology that person used was ‘scary’ at the situation they are encountering at Warren General in the ER,” Colosimo said. “I talked to a couple of people in the ‘COVID Wing’ of Warren General, and they are about at capacity.”

Akif asked that Warren County residents continue to be vigilant about COVID-19.

“As our team cares for our residents, we do ask that residents continue to wear masks, wash hands and distance when out in the public,” Akif said. “Our caregivers are residents just like everyone else. If we all practice safe healthy habits, it assures that our employees will be here at the hospital to care for all of our Warren County residents.”

Editor’s note: Chris Rossetti and Brian Hagberg both contributed to this story