New Jersey hospital diverts ambulances after COVID-19 outbreak

Hackensack (N.J.) Meridian Health's Palisades Medical Center, a 202-bed hospital in North Bergen, N.J., temporarily diverted ambulances to other facilities after a COVID-19 outbreak among staff, a spokesperson confirmed to Becker's.

Palisades was no longer on divert as of Dec. 3.

"Hospitals regularly go on divert, even in non-COVID times," said spokesperson Mary Jo Layton. "A divert status is done for four hours to decompress the volume and to assess the situation to ensure we continue to provide high-quality care for our patients."

An outbreak, in which about 30 to 40 employees at Palisades tested positive for COVID-19 as of Dec. 3, prompted the divert status, as well as the transfer of some patients, according to

Debbie White, president of the Health Professionals & Allied Employees union, told the news site most of the employees affected by the outbreak are nurses from two units, including the progressive care unit.

Ms. Layton said Palisades continues to have adequate staffing and follow CDC and state safety protocols, including increased daily COVID-19 testing of employees in any units with more chance or incidence of confirmed cases.

"Greater surveillance of team members better enables us to identify those who are asymptomatic but test positive and ensure they rest at home," she said.

Ms. Layton also said visitation with hospitalized patients has been suspended, with some exceptions; patients are tested for COVID-19 on admission and serial tested when they stay for more than two days; and employees who test positive are required to self-quarantine at home.

She did not give more details to Becker's about the number of employees affected or when and how the Palisades outbreak was identified. 

The Palisades outbreak is the second recently reported at a Hackensack Meridian Health facility. Ocean Medical Center in Brick, N.J., also experienced a COVID-19 outbreak that sidelined more than 100 employees.

Daniel Varga, MD, the chief physician executive of Hackensack Meridian Health, told both hospitals delayed certain elective surgeries for two to three days.

Overall, less than 1.5 percent of Hackensack Meridian Health's clinical workforce was out of work as of Dec. 3 for issues related to COVID-19, Ms. Layton said.


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