Why are so many people showing up at ECMC right now?

Local News

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – The Erie County Medical Center set a record Monday with 553 inpatients. That number had dropped to 538 by Wednesday, but hospital officials know challenges are still ahead of them. As they care for hundreds of patients, they have no plans to turn people away from their emergency room.

“We never send anybody away. So if you show up to the Emergency Department, we’re going to see you. We’re going to stabilize you,” said ECMC’s Associate Medical Director Dr. Samuel Cloud. “That never changes.”

Still, the hospital is planning to cut back on some services soon. Come Monday, elective inpatient surgeries will be suspended. ECMC will also temporarily stop accepting ICU transfers from other hospitals. This contingency plan takes effect on the same day the state’s vaccine mandate for hospital and nursing home staff kicks in.

By next week, ECMC expects about 10% of their 4,000 workers will be unvaccinated. State health officials say those people can be terminated. Other hospitals and nursing homes statewide are anticipating similar staffing shortages.

On Wednesday, Governor Kathy Hochul said she’ll be sharing a remedial plan in a day or two.

“We’ll be working very closely to have a multi-pronged approach, which I will be announcing shortly,” Hochul said. “I just had my first call early this morning to look at all the options we have available. And there are considerable options.”

Of the hundreds of patients inside ECMC, just a small fraction is being treated for COVID, hospital officials say. But the pandemic is still playing a major role in the number of people being cared for inside the hospital’s walls.

“COVID has added extra pressure on the hospital in that we now have somewhat less staff than we used to have for a variety of reasons,” Cloud said. “We have issues with nursing homes not being able to take patients to the extent that they used to because they’re having staffing issues. We have other facilities that would normally take patients that have developmental disabilities. They’re also having staffing issues.

“So we’re getting this backlog in the hospital. We can’t get patients out as fast.”

That explains why the hospital is setting records. Cloud said they’ll work to find some breathing room.

“What we end up doing is just trying our best and trying different strategies to get patients out of the hospital who are stable and safe to go home or go to an alternative place of care,” he said.

Chris Horvatits is an award-winning reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2017. See more of his work here.

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