Health Department Awards $555,391 For "Alternate Care" Demonstration Projects

Preparation for Major Health Emergencies, Including Pandemics

ALBANY, N.Y. (Feb. 20, 2008) – The New York State Department of Health has awarded grants totaling $555,391 as part of a new initiative to develop options to hospital-based care in the wake of a major health emergency, such as an influenza pandemic.

"There is no doubt that the number of patients who would need to be cared for during a severe pandemic would seriously overburden hospitals throughout the state," said State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D. "We know that it is critical to develop other options, including ways to provide medical care in alternative locations. These grants will support innovative, realistic approaches to this difficult challenge."

During a severe, "Category 5" pandemic, demand for hospital care would increase dramatically in New York State. Computer models predict more than 770,000 hospital admissions for treatment of influenza over a six-week period, compared to 228,000 admissions during an average flu season. During the worst pandemic week, as many as 160,000 patients statewide would need some level of hospital care. Although plans call for hospitals to suspend elective surgery during a pandemic, the surge in flu admissions, coupled with the regular patient census, could rapidly overwhelm health care capacity throughout the state.

Twelve applicants competed for the funding, which is part of the state Health Department's comprehensive pandemic preparedness and response planning. Awardees will devise alternate care models that are flexible enough to respond to the unpredictability of a pandemic, and can adapt to changing needs. These demonstration projects must clearly identify any expected barriers and propose ways to overcome them.

Four grants were awarded, representing urban and rural regions of the state:

  • Catholic Health Systems ($200,000): This Erie County project will develop a modular approach to provide alternatives to hospitalization. Each module will have its own response plan, equipment, and staff resources to allow services to be scaled up or down depending on the number of patients and the severity of their symptoms. The project will develop approaches for taking care of people in a general population shelter, a medical functional (special needs) shelter, and at a fully functional alternate care site.
  • S2AY Rural Health Network ($82,640): Local health departments and emergency management offices in Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Alleghany, Ontario, Wayne and Yates counties are partnering in this project to address rural evacuation—the potential for people to leave large metropolitan areas and go to less-populated parts of the state during a pandemic. The project will identify public and private space that can be used to support the counties' normal census, and also respond to a population surge.
  • Glens Falls Hospital ($85, 000): Glens Falls Hospital proposes to develop alternate care sites using primary care centers, nursing homes, and rural school-based health centers located throughout Warren and Washington counties. Existing medical space near the hospital also will be adapted for use as an alternate care site.
  • Putnam County ($187,751): The Putnam County Bureau of Emergency Services, Putnam Hospital Center, Hudson Valley Cerebral Palsy Association, Putnam County Sheriff's Department and New York Medical College are partners in this proposal that will address the needs of both urban and rural communities. The project includes converting space now housing a non-residential day program for use as an alternate care site, as well as developing non-traditional options for alternate care in parts of the county that have limited or no health care resources.

The contract period runs through Aug. 8, 2008 with an anticipated extension until Feb. 15, 2009. Once completed, the alternate care models will be made available for replication statewide.