Local hospitals adapt to high capacity, staff members testing positive


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — COVID-19 cases are continuing to surge in Western New York, leaving local hospitals scrambling to deal with the high capacity rates that follow.

According to the New York State Health Department, just seven percent of ICU beds were available in Erie County Hospitals this weekend,

“It’s an ‘all hands on deck’ situation,” said Kaleida Health Senior Vice President Michael Hughes. “What we’re seeing is a rise in COVID cases, but a majority of them are either unvaccinated or have other issues, other comorbidities.”

Kaleida Health had nearly 250 patients with COVID throughout their hospital system Monday, and more than 100 patients at Erie County Medical Center had COVID, with 10 people on ventilators.

“About half of the submissions we have currently that are COVID positive are here for COVID,” said ECMC Associate Medical Director Dr. Samuel Cloud. “That means that those 60, 70, 80 beds are offline for other patients. So what ends up happening is those patients in the hospital end up backing up into the [emergency department]. There are no beds upstairs to put them into.”

Hospital leaders say this isn’t their only concern. Staff members are also among those testing positive.

“This morning there were 171 employees out with COVID-19,” Cloud said. “A couple of days ago we were up to 230, so it is definitely having an impact on operations.”

This is leaving local hospitals short staffed and having to juggle how they handle healthcare.

“We call it dual systems of care. We think it’s going to be here for a long time – that is, how we’re managing COVID-19 and how we’re managing everything else other than COVID-19. The regular, day-to-day hospital world,” Hughes said. “It’s learning about all things COVID-19 – all the different variants – making sure we’re protecting our employees, protecting our patients. But it’s something we look at it as, we’re going to be here in these dual systems for the long haul.”

Kaleida Health is still open for all elective surgeries; however, ECMC has been told by the New York State Health Department to stop all non-essential, non-urgent elective procedures for at least two weeks because of high capacity.

Marlee Tuskes is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here and follow her on Twitter.

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