AMSTERDAM — Nathan Littauer Hospital and Albany Medical Center say their new Amsterdam facility is seeing growing use by residents of an area where healthcare options are too few to meet need.
The largest hospital in this part of the state and one of the smallest collaborated on the multispecialty medical office from conception to completion, evenly splitting the $5.6 million cost of constructing the facility on Golf Course Road in Amsterdam.
In June, Albany Med placed offices for vascular surgery, neurosurgery, maternal fetal medicine and pediatric specialty care in about a third of the space. In September, Littauer began urgent care and primary care in the rest of the 10,000-square-foot building.
Littauer CEO Sean Fadale said Tuesday there were delays due to or related to COVID that pushed back completion, startup and occupancy of a project that was proposed in 2020. But Littauer has now fully occupied its portion of the facility, he said.
“It’s going very well,” Fadale said. “It was a good decision for us.”
Littauer may expand the scope of its operations there, he added, but will concentrate first on building out its primary care practice, which is led by Dr. Joseph Carrozza.
Albany Med, meanwhile, is considering rotating additional specialty healthcare providers through the facility because of the reception the initial roster of specialties has received.
“Robust patient volume since last spring has proven that we are filling a great need in the Mohawk Valley,” Albany Med Health System President and CEO Dr. Dennis P. McKenna said in a news release. “For many years, our patients have traveled from the Amsterdam area to Albany for specialty care, and we are proud to deliver it closer to where they live.”
Albany Med’s network of four hospitals and scores of satellite facilities stretches 110 miles north to south along the eastern edge of New York state, but the new Golf Course Road facility is one of the most far-flung locations under the Albany Med name.
It stands about a half-mile north of the Route 30 campus of St. Mary’s Healthcare.
St. Mary’s has said it doesn’t feel competitive pressure from the new facility. Both St. Mary’s and Littauer have a network of facilities in Fulton and Montgomery counties, including a St. Mary’s urgent care clinic that is almost directly across East State Street from the Littauer campus in Gloversville. (Littauer protested that move when it was approved in 2009.)
Fadale said the Golf Course Road facility was not located to siphon patients from St. Mary’s, it was intended to address an unmet need in a large Health Provider Shortage Area.
“This entire region is a HPSA designated by the state,” he said. “For the population, there are just not enough providers available. There is a shortage in primary care throughout the region — that’s why we have 12 locations.”
Fadale said the pandemic has dampened competitive urges among healthcare providers.
“What is interesting over the past two years, what COVID has done is it’s created more collaboration than competition. The days of everyone being everything to everybody are gone — that is really hard to do. So we don’t look at it as competition per se.”
Littauer’s previous venture in proximity to St. Mary’s, its primary care center on Route 30 in Perth, did very well, Fadale said.
The Albany Med-Littauer venture in Amsterdam comes at a difficult time for hospitals, which are struggling with pandemic-related financial challenges and a personnel shortage that predates the pandemic but has gotten sharply worse in the COVID era.
“We’ve had staffing issues for a long time,” Fadale said. “COVID has really shined a bright light on it.”
Littauer has improved its compensation packages and redoubled its recruiting efforts, he said, but the hospital industry does not expect the shortage to be a quick or easy fix.
Littauer continues to have some month-to-month financial challenges but, on an annual basis, the red ink is not enough to cause problems yet, Fadale said.
It is a hospital that relies heavily on state and federal reimbursements, so there’s the worry that lawmakers could shift funding to other priorities as the pandemic eases for the third time in three years.
The idea of COVID fatigue among the populace is real, Fadale said, people are tired of dealing with it. But fatigue doesn’t mean it can be ignored. People are still dying from the virus, and the impacts of the public health crisis are still manifesting themselves.
“Come and walk through my organization and you’ll really see COVID fatigue,” Fadale said.
But there is good news there, too.
State data shows that Littauer admitted its first known COVID-positive patient on April 1, 2020. In the nearly two years since, 418 COVID patients survived to be discharged, while 71 did not.
After Littauer hit an all-time high of 17 COVID-positive patients early last month, its census stood at just one on Tuesday.
And for three days in mid-March, there were no COVID-positive patients at all.
“That was fabulous news,” Fadale said.