Hospitals, clinics continue to manage demand amid surge in cases

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Hartford HealthCare reported more than 600 of its 30,000 employees were home on quarantine or isolation Wednesday and that its GoHealth Walk-In centers were seeing 2,000 patients a day network wide. 

“This is a moment for caution, not panic,” said Jeff Flaks, president of Hartford HealthCare. “This is a fluid situation. Each and every day, new facts emerge. We need to adjust accordingly.”

The highly contagious omicron variant is estimated to make up about 40 percent of all COVID-19 cases, HHC officials told reporters Wednesday. In total, HHC hospitals have 425 COVID-19 positive patients, roughly the same numbers seen in April 2020. But the significant difference is the numbers in critical care, which has about 61 patients, and seven patients on a ventilator, officials said. 

“That is about half of what we had in April 2020,” said Keith Grant, senior system director, infection prevention for HHC. 

About 39 percent of the infected patients are vaccinated and only seven patients have had booster shots. Not one patient in intensive care has received a booster shot. 

“This shows us the critical impact of vaccinations and boosters,” Flaks said.

Health officials are now classifying “fully vaccinated” as having had the booster shot, but are not basing treatments on vaccine status.

Hartford HealthCare is the parent network of MidState Medical Center in Meriden and the Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain and Southington.

Also assisting the health care industry over the past two years are new monoclonal antibody medications, that although in short supply have improved outcomes. The rise of telehealth services has also helped keep as many patients as possible at home and out of the hospital, they said.

But the absence of health care workers and increased hospitalizations has meant some shifting in operations. Academic and administrative workers are being redirected and the network has master plans to increase beds if needed. The seven-hospital network is at 61 percent capacity, officials said. Hartford Hospital is at capacity.

Walk-in clinics

Testing demand has squeezed the GoHealth Urgent Care walk-in centers, which are seeing 2,000 patients a day network wide. Large scale testing operations closed in the months following the vaccines’ arrival last year when the need for testing dropped. But the spike in positive cases and hospitalizations has created a testing availability shortage that has fallen primarily on the walk-in clinics. Staffing shortages in the walk-ins have only compounded the situation.

Two weeks ago, GoHealth on South Broad Street in Meriden closed temporarily for 18 hours due to a staff shortage. MediQuick Medical Center on Pomeroy Avenue also closed briefly and both sites continue to see long wait times for testing. Acute care patients who arrive for conditions other than COVID-19, are making appointments several days ahead or going to the emergency rooms, which are also treating higher numbers.

GoHealth intends to open​ an additional four locations in the state, bringing its total to 23, a company representative said Wednesday.​​​​​

Hartford HealthCare addressed the testing demand surge and Flaks said it is adding capacity. The network has testing trailers and has set dates for new openings in January, and is expanding hours at existing sites. Officials mentioned four new trailers in Newington Bridgeport, Norwich and Meriden but no dates were attached to those locations.

GoHealth addressed the temporary closures with a statement last week.

“As the surge in COVID-19 continues, Hartford HealthCare-GoHealth Urgent Care is closely monitoring the needs of our community and our teams and consolidating services at certain locations where necessary,” according to the statement.

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"This is a moment for caution, not panic. ...Each and every day, new facts emerge. We need to adjust accordingly."

-Jeff Flaks

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