Critical care

Garnet Health-Harris to keep its coronary care unit

Posted 6/14/22

THOMPSON, NY — The fate of Sullivan County’s only coronary care unit has been decided after weeks of deliberation and dispute.

Garnet Health, a nonprofit hospital that provides providing …

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Critical care

Garnet Health-Harris to keep its coronary care unit


THOMPSON, NY — The fate of Sullivan County’s only coronary care unit has been decided after weeks of deliberation and dispute.

Garnet Health, a nonprofit hospital that provides providing medical care through three facilities in Sullivan and Orange counties, recently filed an application for the temporary closure of the coronary care unit (CCU) at its Harris campus. The application attracted significant outcry from the community, with a wide range of people opposing the idea of withdrawing services from a county that already struggles with public health.

The New York State Department of Health (DOH) reviewed Garnet Health’s application and denied it, leaving the CCU in place. Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther’s office announced the decision on June 9, ending weeks of community concern.

How critical is the care unit?

Garnet Health’s CCU (referred to alternately as a coronary care unit and a critical care unit) provides a unique service for Sullivan County residents.

A CCU is a specialized intensive care unit providing highly trained specialists and around-the-clock monitoring for patients in need of constant care, according to A CCU specializes in patients with severe heart problems, while an ICU covers a range of intensive care.

Garnet Health manages a network of three facilities: its Callicoon campus in the town of Delaware, its Harris campus in the town of Thompson and the Middletown campus in Orange County. If Garnet Health pulled the CCU from its Harris hospital, patients would have to go to the Middletown campus to find the same level of intensive treatment.

That patients would have to go outside of Sullivan County for treatment would put an added strain on Sullivan County’s emergency response resources. Albee Bockman, founder of Mobilemedic, testified to that impact at a June 2 meeting of the Sullivan County Legislature’s public safety and law enforcement committee.

Mobilemedic has recently averaged five runs to Westchester or Orange counties during the day and four during the night, Bockman said. A trip to Westchester could tie up an ambulance for around 2.5 hours, depending on the traffic and on the time it took to get a patient off the stretcher.

“It’s affecting emergency medical services,” said Bockman. “It’s taking us out of service to handle 911 [calls] as well, and they did not give us notice [of the shutdown], so we have to adjust quickly as the summer approaches.”

The trip to hospitals outside the county could affect patients in need of treatment as well as the ambulances needed to get them there.

Nurses, joined by Gunther, gathered at Garnet Health’s Harris campus on May 24 to protest the closure of the CCU, testifying to the damage it could cause. “If our main critical care unit closes, all critical care patients would be sent to critical care units outside of Sullivan County,” said Susan Vorstad, RN, in a press release announcing the protest. “This has the potential to be unsafe for the patients.”

The shift could even affect people in the community without a pressing need for care, according to Gunther. The lack of transportation in the community makes it hard for patients in Middletown to see their families. In addition, taxpayers would have to foot the bill for the extra ambulance transportation required to go out of the county.

“The hospital is trying to save money, but if a person’s on Medicaid, we’re the ones who are going to be paying for transport,” said Gunther. “It’s unacceptable, and we need to work together to find a way to ensure these services are sustainable in Sullivan County.”

Caring for a critical unit

The DOH took the concerns of the community into account and denied Garnet Health’s application, leaving the CCU at the Harris campus.

“As Garnet Catskill is the only hospital providing coronary care services in the county, the Department of Health has received comments from the community and elected officials expressing their concerns about the closure of Garnet’s coronary care unit. Therefore, the Department of Health did not approve Garnet’s proposal to close its coronary care unit, and the hospital needs to actively work with the community and its elected officials to reach a resolution,” said Jeffrey Hammond, deputy director of communications with the DOH.

The DOH rejection settles the immediate fate of the CCU. The underlying factors that led Garnet Health to propose closing it in the first place remain an ongoing concern.

Garnet Health filed its application on the back of a downward trend in the CCU’s use, said spokesperson Marcy Manheim. “Garnet Health, much like other hospitals and health systems across the nation, is facing economic issues due to low patient volumes, significantly higher expenses and nationwide supply chain issues. Our current financial challenges have forced us to closely look at our present situation and evaluate our options.”

Despite these factors, Garnet Health wants to keep up its commitment to the Sullivan County community. While it confirms that the nursing units at Middletown and Harris have been consolidated, it denies reports that there have been closures of the Harris campus’ medical surgical floor.

Sullivan County Health and Human Services commissioner John Liddle expressed concern about Garnet Health’s finances at a June 9 meeting of the legislature’s health and human services committee.

Between a dropping census of patients and people not going in for procedures due to the pandemic, Garnet Health was facing some difficult decisions, said Liddle. “They are certainly in a pretty serious financial predicament.” Going forward, it would be important to make sure that Garnet Health understood the community’s needs.

Legislator Nadia Rajsz agreed; she has experience from working in hospital laboratories since 1978, and formerly served as chair of the health and human services committee. The county needed to know what direction Garnet Health was headed, she said, especially if that direction included closures of departments that provide critical services to county residents.

Garnet Health-Harris, coronary care unit, critical care unit, Sullivan County, hospital, finances


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