WellSpan to redeploy staff, create acute care unit amid COVID-19 surge

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch

WellSpan Health will redeploy staff and convert the WellSpan Surgery & Rehabilitation Hospital in York Township into an acute care hospital because of staffing shortages, the company announced Thursday. 

The announcement from the operator of York Hospital came the same day that York County smashed its previous day-over-day record for new COVID-19 cases, with 677 new infections reported, according to the state Department of Health. 

In total, there had been 12,388 cases in York County since the outbreak began.

"Not all COVID-19 patients require ICU care, but the sheer volume of COVID-19 patients seeking care is increasing at a steep rate," said WellSpan spokesperson Ryan Coyle in an email.

There are now 355 patients in WellSpan hospitals who have tested positive for COVID-19, accounting for 33% of all patients, Coyle said.

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WellSpan's statement promptly followed a news conference, during which state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine warned that hospitals were becoming strained because of  record numbers of cases.

In York County, WellSpan will relocate staff from the Apple Hill Surgery Center in York Township to the converted acute care hospital, the news release states.

Elective surgeries also will  be reduced at Apple Hill. The percentage by which the surgeries will be reduced will vary day by day, Coyle said.

Other WellSpan hospitals throughout the region, such as WellSpan Chambersburg Hospital and WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital in Lebanon County, will implement similar measures, officials said. 

York County has seen an average of 796 cases per 100,000 people over the previous 14 days, a common metric to compare cases among municipalities. In the past seven days alone, there were 1,960 new cases. 

Thursday's new case increase was the second record broken in the county this week. Eight deaths related to COVID-19 were reported Tuesday in York County, the highest on record. There were two additional deaths on Thursday, bringing the death toll to 260 since the pandemic began.

Statewide, there were 11,406 new cases Thursday, another record that pushed the total to 386,837. About 59% of patients have recovered. There were also 187 new deaths. The virus-related death toll now stands at 10,944.

There are a record 4,982 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state, 1,048 of whom  in the intensive care unit.

States throughout the country are seeing numbers that health officials at all levels of government say indicate a fall resurgence.

Americans hospitalized because of COVID-19 on Thursday surpassed 100,000 for the first time, The Associated Press reported.

In addition, the U.S. recorded more than 3,000 COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, shattering records set this spring. Daily case increases in the U.S. have begun surpassing 200,000.

Increases in cases and hospitalizations led  Levine to issue a stark warning during Thursday's news conference.

“We have seen that a number of counties in Pennsylvania have only a few intensive care unit beds left, or no intensive bed units left, in their county,” Levine said. “This has a direct impact on the dedicated healthcare providers who are working night and day to protect us.”

Levine last week issued an order requiring hospitals to reduce elective procedures by 50% if they meet at least two of three criteria laid out by the state.

  • Thirty-three percent or more of hospitals in the region anticipate staffing shortages within the next week;
  • A 50% increase or more  in the moving average of COVID-19 admissions in the region has occurred in the last 48 hours;
  • Less than  10% of the total staffed medical and surgical beds in a region are anticipated to be available for patient care in the next 72 hours.

Levine said that no region in the state had met two of the three criteria as of Thursday. The southwest and south-central regions, however, have prompted concern because of anticipated staffing shortages, she said.

The south-central region includes York County. 

As of Thursday, the following percentages of beds were available in the county: 24.4% of adult ICU beds; 6.6% of medical and surgical beds; 52.6% of pediatric beds; and 24.2% of airborne isolation beds.

No pediatric ICU beds were available.

Ventilators were at less than half availability, with 51 of 94 ventilators in the county in use.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.