UTICA, N.Y. – Today, the Mohawk Valley Health System (MVHS) released a video message from its President and CEO Darlene Stromstad, FACHE, to update the community on key issues related to the resurgence of COVID-19 in the community and at the MVHS hospitals. Staffing challenges, the organization’s supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), hospital capacity and what both employees and the community can do at this time are among the items she talks about. 

Stromstad began her message by saying how proud she is of the dedicated MVHS healthcare workers who continue to care tirelessly for patients and the community, calling them the “real heroes of this pandemic.”  Other highlights from the video(s) include:

Staffing Challenges

  • Just like hospitals around the country, MVHS is struggling with staffing given that there is a nationwide nursing shortage which has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. The MVHS Leadership Team and the HR Department are working aggressively to recruit employees, in particular nurses, care techs, lab personnel and workers in EVS and Nutrition. Other initiatives underway include:
  • Bringing in agency nurses (travelers) as quickly as possible and exploring other agency options for care techs and other essential jobs. 
  • Reaching out to past employees as well as those who have applied to our organization in the past. This includes the 10 nurses who took a layoff and asking them to consider taking an open position. (Note that all of our staff have long been back from furloughs.)  
  • Contacting schools and connecting with businesses where there have been layoffs to look for workers. 
  • Bringing in nursing students during their winter breaks.
  • Inviting representatives from the nursing unions to join us in developing other solutions. 

       A list of open positions can be found at careers.mvhealthsystem.org.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
MVHS reviews its supply of PPE (masks, gloves, gowns, etc.) every single day, and New York State (NYS) requires that all hospitals in NYS, including MVHS, have a 90-day supply of PPE. Right now MVHS has ample supplies. 

Much has been said about the N95 respirator masks – these offer the highest level of protection for healthcare workers caring for COVID-19 patients. Last week MVHS received 20,000 N95 respirators from Oneida County and will also receive an additional 20,000 N95 respirators over the next 10 weeks. That’s a total of 40,000 masks. 

Given the challenge of obtaining N95s throughout the year, employees and providers were being asked to reuse masks using a sterilization process that was recommended by the CDC. However, given the supply that MVHS now has, along with evolving science, there will no longer be reuse of the N95s – every day, each employee will have a new mask that they will discard at the end of the day. 

Hospital Capacity and Elective Procedures at MVHS 

“Hospital capacity” means having enough beds and staffing to “surge up” to care for an influx of patients. MVHS monitors this every day – sometimes twice a day to guide decision-making. At this moment, MVHS has the capacity necessary to care for the community, and there is a “surge plan” in place that would increase bed capacity, if needed. Also at this time, MVHS has not eliminated elective surgeries and procedures. As was learned during the Spring COVID outbreak, delaying care could negatively impact people’s health. The Leadership Team continues to assess the situation daily and, if needed, will put into place a decompression strategy that may limit some patient access.

What employees and community members can do to help?

Stromstad noted that these are trying times in healthcare and this is a time for everyone to work together. She called on all MVHS employees and providers to join together to solve the issues with a sense of urgency. There is no more time or energy to waste on the distraction of unproductive activities. We all agree there are issues to be addressed – now let’s work together to solve them. 

She also requested that all community members support the MVHS healthcare workers by doing their part: Wear your mask, wash your hands, maintain social distancing and avoid indoor gatherings. The healthcare workers at MVHS are counting on the community to help flatten the curve of COVID-19 cases and decrease hospitalizations. And, she said, “The vaccine is coming but it will take months before enough people have been vaccinated for our country to again be safe and resume our former lifestyles. So keep practicing your safe habits.”

To see the entire video, go to: https://youtu.be/Qeq3ZxwK8N0.


Media Contact: 
Caitlin McCann
VP, Communications and Marketing