Ambulances diverted Tuesday from Lewis County hospital

Lewis County Health System, Lowville. Kara Dry/Watertown Daily Times

LOWVILLE — For just more than six hours on Tuesday, ambulances that would normally bring patients to Lewis County Health System were diverted for other nearby facilities.

From about 10:30 a.m. until about 3:40 p.m., ambulances headed to the hospital’s emergency room were to be diverted to other facilities including Carthage Area Hospital and Samaritan Medical Center in Watertown.

Chief Executive Officer Gerald R. Cayer said via email that while the number of patients in the 25-bed facility varies from day to day, there have been between 12 and 25 patients “over the last couple of weeks.”

The health system went beyond Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s request for all hospitals in the state to increase their bed capacity by 25% to prepare for COVID-19 surges by increasing their capacity by 50%, bringing the total number of available beds up to 38.

“Yesterday’s census was 24. Overnight, into the morning, we went from 24 to 30 and had a full emergency department. It was that simple,” Mr. Cayer said of the need to re-route ambulances.

That increase left only eight available beds on Tuesday, with a full emergency room before any of the seven to ten people scheduled to be released could be and their vacated rooms deep cleaned.

The surge of people into the Lewis County facility included those with typical seasonal maladies, injuries and COVID-19, Mr. Cayer said.

Based on the daily COVID-19 statistics the health system provides, 12 of the patients currently in the hospital are COVID-positive.

According to Mr. Cayer, health system management provided the state Department of Health an update on the day’s diversion at about 4 p.m.

“The Department of Health is actively monitoring capacity,” DOH spokesperson Jill Montag said via email. “Current indications are that there is sufficient capacity for patient care at Lewis County General Hospital. Hospitals are obligated to notify us if they believe occupancy may reach critical levels.”

Times reporter Vaughn Golden contributed to this report.

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