SMC could have to give up three ventilators

One of the ventilators at Samaritan Medical Center. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — Officials for north country hospitals say they need more information in the wake of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order allowing the state to redistribute ventilators to areas where there are more cases of COVID-19.

Shortly after the governor declared that the state could take ventilators and personal protective equipment from upstate hospitals and redirect them where there’s a greater need, he held a conference call with nearly all of the CEOs at hospitals across the state.

It is Samaritan Medical Center’s understanding that the state could take 10 percent of their overall ventilators or 20 percent of the ventilators that aren’t in use. Either way, Samaritan would likely have to give up three of the 33 ventilators the hospital has, said Leslie M. Distefano, a spokesperson for the medical center.

Right now, losing three ventilators would be something they could absorb and continue business as usual, as there are at least that many not in use. But with COVID-19 comes uncertainty.

“With this pandemic, that could change,” she said. “Hence why we have the supply we have.”

There are many unanswered questions associated with the executive order, officials said. Ms. Distefano was unaware of any timeline of when these ventilators might be required by the state. And she was unaware of how the state would apply its method of taking ventilators from hospitals with far fewer such pieces of equipment. The governor’s office said the ventilators would be loaned to the state, suggesting hospitals like Samaritan would be reimbursed or the equipment would be returned, but, again, for the medical center, it’s hard to say.

“We’re still looking and waiting for a lot of details about how this will work,” Ms. Distefano said. “For us, it’s about learning those details and then looking at Samaritan as the anchor hospital in the north country, our patients and really considering the military and civilian population we serve and how we can move forward.”

In the end, for Samaritan, it will be about advocating for what’s best for the area.

“We are a very unique area,” she said. “But we also know that the resources are very strained across the state. We’re all feeling that. As with anything, you just have to have more information before you can formulate a response.”

Carthage Area Hospital and Lewis County General Hospital could not be reached for comment about their ventilators. Alexandria Bay’s River Hospital said it’s too early to comment on the developing situation.

John Seller is the supervising nurse at Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center and the most senior employee at the hospital on weekends. To his knowledge, the medical center has not been asked to provide any of its ventilators to the state.

But he did note that with COVID-19, some who test positive are presenting mild symptoms, or some have a severe illness. As it progresses, the lungs become non-compliant, which is when a ventilator is required.

He was not sure how many ventilators the medical center had on Saturday, but he did agree with Ms. Distefano’s sentiment of a world that’s evolving faster minute by minute because of the pandemic.

“Our senior management has been working for weeks on developing a plan,” Mr. Seller said. “This is just not something we’ve seen in our lifetime, or probably in our parents’ lifetime. So I know our senior management, they meet every day and there’s a very good plan in place, but it’s a dynamic process. It’s not static. It will depend on the cases we do get.”

As far as the apex of the case-count, he’s not sure the country is there yet.

This is just my personal opinion, I don’t think we have reached it yet either,” he said. “And I think most people in healthcare would say the same thing.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

Recommended for you

(21) comments

keyser soze

Let’s see, so far the Dotard’s plan to combat Covid-19 has been:

Blame China, lie, blame the governors, lie, blame Obama, more lies, blame Biden, lie some more, blame Pelosi, still more lies, blame Schumer, blame Mickey Mouse -- then blame Walt Disney for creating Mickey Mouse in the first place, and of course, continue to lie, lie, and lie.

Or as his brain dead cultists would enthusiastically proclaim… MAGA!!


Just three? How many patients does Jefferson County have on ventilators? Are we letting downstate people die by being selfish?


How many patients are there going be, that’s the question? Hmmm, government not prepared, who would have predicted that?


This is the Democrats’ “New Hoax” according to Trump. I don’t understand why people are saying Democrats should have known not to impeach Trump when Trump himself was calling this a “Hoax” after impeachment? Please perform some mental gymnastics to defend our Reality Show president and his son-in-law. (Perfect leadership in time of crisis!)

Holmes -- the real one

Good old Ayn Rand at work -- "The Virtue of Selfishness." Didn't stop her from collecting SS though.


As of last evening, none of the total positive cases in Jefferson county were hospitalized. None. None hospitalized. None on ventilators.


Former Mayor Jeff Graham says this is all overblown. Send all of them downstate! Read his recent editorial yourself. 63% of Jefferson county voted for Trump (there’s no college is Jefferson County) so as Trump people they know this is a hoax!


If you read what Trump actually said, not what CNN wants you to believe, you will see that he didn't say the virus itself is a hoax.


"this is their new hoax." Donald J Trump, at a campaign rally in front of video cameras, February 20th, 2020


Pelosi and her Democrats pushed impeachment as Coronavirus spread. Meanwhile, President Trump was taking care of the American people by instituting precautions.

hermit thrush

what precautions? he restricted incoming travel from china after the virus was already confirmed to be here (and 40,000 people were still able to travel here from china after the restrictions were enacted). otherwise he spent his time golfing, holding political rallies, partying at mar-a-lago, watching tv, and rage tweeting. it's april and we still don't have nearly enough tests.

(on the other hand, the administration has requested 100,000 body bags, so i guess you could say they have finally taken some precautions.)


From Snopes:

What's True

During a Feb. 28, 2020, campaign rally in South Carolina, President Donald Trump likened the Democrats' criticism of his administration's response to the new coronavirus outbreak to their efforts to impeach him, saying "this is their new hoax." During the speech he also seemed to downplay the severity of the outbreak, comparing it to the common flu.

What's False

Despite creating some confusion with his remarks, Trump did not call the coronavirus itself a hoax.

Holmes -- the real one

"Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. You know that, right? Coronavirus. They're politicizing it. We did one of the great jobs, you say, 'How's President Trump doing?', 'Oh, nothing, nothing.' They have no clue, they don't have any clue. They can't even count their votes in Iowa, they can't even count. No, they can't. They can't count their votes. One of my people came up to me and said, 'Mr. President, they tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russia.' That didn't work out too well. They couldn't do it. They tried the impeachment hoax. That was on a perfect conversation. They tried anything, they tried it over and over, they've been doing it since he got in. It's all turning, they lost. It's all turning, think of it, think of it. And this is their new hoax. But you know we did omething that's been pretty amazing. We have 15 people in this massive country and because of the fact that we went early, we went early, we could have had a lot more than that."

Holmes -- the real one

Text of the remark in question is found here. With further discussion.

hermit thrush

because trump often speaks as though he has a case of verbal diarrhea, it's hard to know exactly what he was calling a hoax. so what? the content of repeated comments he made throughout january and february and into march is that it's a hoax.

hermit thrush

Trump Accuses Media and Democrats of Exaggerating Coronavirus Threat, feb. 28, in the nyt.

Holmes -- the real one

Have you ever heard that expression, "beating a dead horse"?


Better wake up, buddy, ot might be your mother or grandmother who ends up neefing that ventilator...


Nope, I believe Trump. This is the Democrats “New Hoax”

hermit thrush

someone's mother or grandmother is going to need it very soon.


No surprise there. Graham is a bonehead.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.