Limited hospital beds as COVID cases rise

“The system just can’t handle anymore"
Posted at 5:39 PM, Nov 17, 2021

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — The rising COVID hospitalization rates are putting an added strain onto already taxed hospital systems.

Hospital leaders have been sounding the alarm, warning the public to get vaccinated if they are eligible.

Many hospitals have been dealing with staffing issues, well before the pandemic, but now with more people needing treatment, hospitals are dealing with fewer inpatient beds.

Outside Kaleida's Buffalo General Hospital.

“Our staff is exhausted. Please do everything we can to protect ourselves. The system just can't handle anymore,” stated Michael Mineo, chief medical officer, Kaleida Health.

For those who are taking the spread of COVID lightly, hospital leaders around Buffalo are pleading for everyone to take precautions to get vaccinated, if they can and wear masks.

Kaleida Dr. Mineo joined a joint COVID update with Erie and Monroe counties earlier this week, warning the hospital systems are “strained”.

“Right now, we have 505 inpatients in a hospital built for 456 patients. We're at 110% capacity, of that about 10% of them is COVID positive,” Mineo explained.

Erie County Medical Center

Although it's not just COVID patients taking up hospital beds, a check of inpatient and ICU beds on the Health and Human Services (HSS) tracker tells the story of hospital capacity.

  • ECMC 1.65% of inpatient beds available
  • Sisters Hospital 4.96% inpatients beds available
  • Kenmore Mercy 10.83% inpatient beds available

“Hospitals are over stressed. We’ve had attrition of staff, through burnout and so forth, so you really don't want to be getting sick and being hospitalized because one in ten of the patients that are hospitalized with COVID expire in the hospital,” declared Brian Murray, chief medical officer, ECMC.

With COVID cases rising, hospitals are filling up and staffing remains an issue, but hospital leaders say they're working to fix it.

“We have actually hired over 200 new staff over the past three months,” remarked Murray.

Murray said the most difficult challenge is hiring personal care aides.

Oishei Children's Hospital
Oishei Children's Hospital

Oishei Children's Hospital, which reports an increase in COVID cases, is also beefing up its staff.

“We’re providing financial incentives for people to pick up additional shifts so that they can provide additional time to us and our patients,” Dr. Stephen Turkovich, chief medical officer, Children’s Hospital.

But Catholic Health’s Dr. Hans Cassagnol says the staffing agencies are creating major competition for area hospitals trying to recruit and hire workers.

Kenmore Mercy Hospital, Elmwood Avenue, Kenmore.

“But they don't want to work at Kaleida, they don't want to work at ECMC. They don't want to work at Catholic Health — they want to work for an agency because the return on investment for their time is so much higher compared to what any of us could offer them,” explained Dr. Cassagnol.

Kaleida's Mineo says government leaders have helped change some regulatory requirements to expand their employee base.

“We can now have EMT’s working in the emergency room, which has been a great help to our emergency department and nursing staff,” described Dr. Mineo.