Pandemic leads to Rapid Care hours cut

COPAKE—If you are sick or hurt and think you should go to the Copake Rapid Care Center, first you better check the day and time.

As of October 1, Columbia Memorial Health (CMH) will cut the hours its Rapid Care Center at 283 Mountain View Road is open.

The new hours are Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The center was previously open daily from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Why the cutback in hours of operation?

CMH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Clifford Belden says it’s about the “resurgence of Covid-19 cases, and a critical shortage of clinical staff.”

In a statement received by email this week, Dr. Belden says, “In many ways, these two primary factors have fueled one another, accelerating a crisis. Many hospitals, including CMH, are seeing record numbers of persons presenting with flu or covid-like symptoms. While at the same time, pre-existing shortages of clinical staff, combined with normal attrition and government actions such as the vaccine mandate, have triggered an increase in hospital staff resignations across the nation, and here at home.”

CMH officials maintain that any changes in location hours are temporary due to these factors.

Healthcare staffing shortfalls are high on the priority list for New York State Governor Kathy Hochul, who signed an executive order September 27 to alleviate potential staffing shortages in hospitals and other healthcare facilities statewide. The executive order significantly expands the eligible healthcare workforce and allows additional healthcare workers to administer Covid-19 testing and vaccinations.

“The only way we can move past this pandemic is to ensure that everyone eligible is vaccinated, and that includes those who are taking care of our vulnerable family members and loved ones. On Saturday I released a comprehensive plan in advance of the deadline for the vaccine mandate that keeps New Yorkers safe, and tonight I am adding even more provisions to take bold action to alleviate potential staffing shortages. To monitor developments on the ground, I am also directing an around-the-clock operations center to assist local partners and troubleshoot staffing issues in real time,” Governor Hochul said in a press release.

A regulation issued by the State Department of Health mandates that all healthcare workers in New York State, at hospitals and nursing homes, are to be vaccinated against Covid-19 with the first dose received by Monday, September 27. Staff at other covered entities, including home care, hospice, and adult care facilities, are to be vaccinated by October 7. The regulation also applies to all out-of-state and contract medical staff who practice in New York State.

The governor has directed a 24/7 Operations Center, led by the state health department, to constantly monitor staffing operations and trends statewide, provide guidance to healthcare facilities and help troubleshoot acute situations with providers as necessary.

The governor is engaged in ongoing outreach with local elected officials, hospitals, labor leaders and other healthcare organizations to check-in on staffing status and offer state assistance, according to the release.

The governor’s plan to address a “preventable” healthcare staffing shortage also includes a state of emergency declaration to supplement the workforce at healthcare facilities by deploying medically-trained members of the National Guard; she is also requesting federal Disaster Medical Assistance Teams and working with the federal government to expedite visa requests for medical professionals.


‘The only way we can move past this pandemic is to ensure that everyone eligible is vaccinated…’

Gov. Kathy Hochul


The plan would enable qualified healthcare professionals licensed in other states or countries, recent graduates, retired and formerly practicing healthcare professionals to practice in New York.

According to the governor’s September 27 release, as of that date the percentage of:

• Nursing home staff receiving at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose will increase to 92%, up from 70% figure on August 15 before the vaccine mandate was announced

• Adult care facilities staff receiving at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose will increase to 89%, up from 76% on August 15

• Hospital staff fully vaccinated is 84% as of September 22, up from 77% August 10. Preliminary self-reported data shows that hospital staff receiving at least one dose of vaccine is 92% as of September 27.

According to Dr. Belden, CMH has “had to adapt what would be our normal protocols to the situation at hand.” As an example, he said, typically, when the Emergency Department or inpatient capacity is at maximum, CMH would transfer patients to other regional hospitals that have excess capacity. But “since virtually all regional hospitals are in the same position, they are unable to handle the transfers, leading to backups throughout the regional system. We are seeing these conditions across the state and nation.”

Other factors beyond the control of hospitals also impact capacity, the doctor said.

“Clinical staff shortages at long-term care facilities mean that patients who are medically ready to be transferred from the hospital back to their residential facility cannot be transferred due to shortages at the return facility. Even seemingly unrelated actions like quarantining young students is problematic, as staff are required to stay home to safeguard their young children.”

Dr. Belden said that CMH has responded to the challenges “by prioritizing our staff resources and deploying them to areas of greatest need. This has caused some disruption in the operating hours for in-person visits at our rapid care centers, which we regret.”

He praised CMH staff noting, they “have tirelessly worked for the residents of Columbia and Greene counties… long hours and extra shifts. They are persevering through the second wave of a deadly pandemic that is physically and emotionally taxing. And day after day they report to their units to care for this community. It is that spirit of caring and commitment that will carry us through this challenging time.”

CMH reminds patients that the hospital’s Emergency Room at 71 Prospect Avenue in Hudson is open 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week.

Additionally the hospital has “engaged tele-health service capacity to offset those impacts and provide an easily accessible alternative for persons who are seeking care for non-life threatening illnesses.” Telemedicine is available daily by going to the telehealth link at https://www.columbiamemorialhealth.org/telehealth/

To contact Diane Valden email

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