Catholic Health CEO on pandemic response: “We have never stopped preparing"

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Posted at 11:22 PM, Nov 11, 2020

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — As the pandemic continues and cases locally rise, Catholic Health in Western New York is too seeing an increase in COVID patients.

“We have never stopped preparing. Our goal since February has been to be always ready," said President and CEO Mark Sullivan.

On Wednesday, the Catholic Health Hospital system was treating 42 COVID-19 patients. Out of that number, eight were in the ICU.

“The disease knows no barriers,” said Sullivan. He continued, “We’re seeing more people coming into the hospital now with COVID symptoms. We’re not seeing the same amount of people in the ICUs, but that’s not say that won’t happen in the future.”

Sullivan said the good news is hospitals not only know more about the virus now than when it all started, but there has also been time to prepare.

7 Eyewitness News Reporter Nikki DeMentri asked Sullivan: “Is Catholic Health prepared for a second wave of coronavirus?”
Sullivan responded: “So Catholic Health prides itself on leading innovation in our region and quality. I would say this: I’m more concerned with the community being prepared to prevent the spike in COVID.” He continued, “Health systems will be prepared, but the prevention is just an important as preparation.”

When it comes to PPE, testing supplies and ICU beds, Sullivan said it is hard to say if it has enough moving forward.

“I would say that every health system in Western New York has enough supplies if the community does their part and steps up and prevents the spread,” said Sullivan.

Sullivan did note Catholic Health went from zero testing platforms to six since February, can now do thousands of tests a day and has more than a 90 day supply of PPE.

“Based on what we saw in the past we have supplies to handle that but past results don’t have future predictions. It all depends on how well the community steps up,” said Sullivan.

In the beginning of the pandemic, St. Joseph campus in Cheektowaga became the dedicated COVID-only hospital. It has since gone back to treating both COVID and non-COVID patients. The ER is reopened and elective procedures are a go.

“We’re creating this flex or hybrid plan which enables us to use all of our other sites based on our history we had in the last seven months, but we’re also prepared to make other augmentations to that plan depending where the breakout is,” Sullivan said.

The return of elective procedures in May not only brought back some much needed revenue, but also brought back jobs. In April, 1,200 employees were furloughed. Sullivan said Wednesday many since been brought back.

Changes are ahead, though. Starting Friday, visitation, which restarted back in June, will now be put on pause once again as a precaution with the rise in COVID cases.

“It’s not going to be well received by the community meaning they want to visit their loved ones. If its end of life concern — of course we’ve always honored that — but we really need to protect the patients that are in our facilities, as well as the associates that are doing wonderful heroes work at the bedside," Sullivan said.

Sullivan said he is proud of his “resilient” staff during this difficult time. Ultimately, he said the community’s actions are critical in how the region moves forward.

“I think we can do it and I know we can do it. We can circle the wagons and move forward and continue to do great things in Buffalo, but it takes every individual stepping up and doing it," Sullivan said.