Brittany Greeson/The New York Times

Cayuga Medical Center has had to adapt to worsening physician burnout and staff shortages, a nationwide result of the pandemic's additional healthcare burdens. Here, medical staff move a hospital bed out of the intensive care unit at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich., on Thursday, April 22, 2021.

September 20, 2021

Amid Elevated Covid Cases, Cayuga Medical Center Mostly Maintains Business as Usual

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With COVID-19 cases coming down from a record high in Tompkins County and staffing shortages among healthcare workers worsening, Cayuga Medical Center has been strained to provide care for COVID and non-COVID patients, but have been able to adapt and provide normal levels of services. 

Despite these concerns, representatives at CMC are hopeful, and cognizant of the success they have had in maintaining a level of care very similar to what they were able to provide before the pandemic. 

“Even with the current wave we are having now, which has more positive cases than any other point in the pandemic, we are able to provide all the services we were providing before.” said Dr. Andreia deLima, vice president of medical affairs for CMC. 

deLima credited this feat to the hospital’s high vaccination rate among employees and precautions for those that enter the hospital. These measures include screening for COVID symptoms, designating certain wings of the hospital to COVID patients and requiring testing before arrival, among others

However, COVID-19 cases remaining elevated in Tompkins County in recent weeks has been “a lot to juggle,” especially amid greater staffing shortages, deLima said. “Prior to Covid, there were already staffing shortages in multiple areas of healthcare, but … the pandemic pushed even more people out.”

According to deLima, CMC has been continually hiring for certain positions, such as nurses and surgeons, while predicting how many employees will be needed for certain shifts to keep patient care running smoothly.

deLima explained that to stave off further shortages, CMC has had to instate programs to mitigate burnout — the overwork, high stress and long hours that lead to workers feeling exhausted and unproductive, even leading some to quitting their jobs. 

“[Burnout] is a true problem,” deLima said. “But we have a robust wellness program for all of our workers, we have initiatives that get deployed when COVID is really trying, when patients are really high.”

One such wellness program is a ‘treat trolley,’ in which physicians get their own form of trick-or-treating during their breaks. deLima explained that since it is often hard for physicians to get sufficient breaks to get food, the hospital sends around a trolley with snacks that can be quickly eaten. 

“The staff really appreciate that,” deLima said.

deLima also said CMC promotes the use of online resources to check on the staff’s mental health. 

Above all, deLima said the hospital’s sense of community has been crucial in forming a support network for all its staff members. 

“When we had our first COVID case, we all came together,” deLima said. “We knew that this was not a sprint, but a marathon, and we needed to pace ourselves. Here we are 18 months later still running that marathon, all of us supporting each other.”

Collaboration with hospitals and other local institutions, deLima added, has been essential for providing treatments CMC cannot.

“We collaborate with hospitals throughout the region, and if it comes to a point where there is a service we cannot offer, we have another place [patients] can be transferred to, and vice versa.” deLima said. “We all want our patients to get the best care possible.” 

In the face of recent COVID concerns, deLima emphasized that CMC’s ability to adapt and commitment to patient care has demonstrated their resilience in keeping their hospital at full functionality.

“The community needs to know that we are all working really hard to keep the hospital working at the same level of care that it has been doing for many, many years.” deLima said. “[COVID] may be a burden, we are aware, but we are prepared.”