Hospitals ramping up bed capacity to deal with COVID cases

"We're seeing more patients being admitted quicker"
Posted at 7:04 PM, Dec 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-09 20:29:20-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Hospital leaders have a big task ahead. They are working to ramp up bed capacity to 25 percent.

This is happening as more COVID-19 patients are arriving at hospitals.

Tom Quatroche, president & CEO, Erie County Medical Center.

“The problem right now is that we're seeing more patients being admitted quicker than we are seeing people being discharged,” remarked Tom Quatroche, president & CEO, Erie County Medical Center.

Quartroche said hospital capacity is at 90 percent, but as one of the busiest trauma centers, that's not unusual.

Right now there are 60 COVID-19 patients at ECMC, but Quartroche said he is expecting an increase by the end of this week.

“It’s just a question — obviously of how many— we have been consistent between 55 and 60 patients for the last four or five days,” replied Quartroche. “We’re watching the entire census of our COVID patients from how many we are admitting to how many we are discharging.”

But the hospital leader said they are ramping up capacity to 25 percent by orders of the governor.

"This is a hospital capacity crisis and more and more it is becoming a great crisis for hospitals, as their capacity is further diminished,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo announced hospitals across the state are managing with what is called a “Surge and Flex" program.

The New York Department of Health commissioner sent a letter to hospitals state-wide.

It stated in part, “it is incumbent upon individual hospitals and hospital systems to alert the state to issues and situations prior to the hospital reaching 80 percent capacity.”

Joseph Ruffolo, president & CEO, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center in a Zoom interview.

“The way we we're managing capacity — it's like we have a half a dozen water lines and we’re adjusting the valves,” declared Joseph Ruffolo, president & CEO, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.

Ruffolo said patient activity is changing hourly.

The hospital announced a new COVID-19 antibody outpatient therapy for those who tested positive with symptoms to avoid hospitalization.

“The trick is to get them at an early stage when they start ailments,” explained Ruffolo

Kaleida Health also announced it is increasing capacity by 25-percent and is adding additional intensive care beds at it's hospitals.

Hospital leaders are keeping a close watch on bed capacity and say the good news is new drug therapies are shortening hospital stays.

ECMC is also facing staffing issues. 50 employees are out with COVID.

“We’re trying to redeploy staff — people are taking overtime — we have not had to use agencies on the in patient floors, so that's another trigger we can pull if we need to,” Quatroche said.

Catholic Health tells 7 Eyewitness News it is currently managing capacity by caring for COVID patients at its five hospitals and at St. Joseph Post Acute Center in Orchard Park.

Last spring, Catholic Health dedicated St. Joseph Hospital in Cheektowaga to all COVID care. But Catholic Health said for now, they are still performing some non-COVID outpatient services at that location and has not reverted it back to all COVID care.