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Several Western New York hospitals face challenges in securing testing materials

Testing in Erie County: "We are in a better position than most"
Posted at 12:41 AM, Jul 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-23 00:41:53-04

WESTERN NEW YORK (WKBW) — Across the nation, countless medical providers share in frustration over a shortage of COVID-19 testing materials and lengthy test result time frames. The same impact is felt in Western New York.

“We’re very concerned about this,” Patrick Bradley with Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center said. He is concerned because a lack of reagents forced the medical provider to discontinue its successful community testing initiative.

Last week, Bradley said the medical center was told by Kaleida Laboratories, the company that processes its community testing samples, it could not get more reagents. Bradley said more than half of all patients tested for the virus came through the robust program.

“It’s our hope…that a sufficient supply of reagents that are needed by the laboratory that we use to be able to resume community testing that supply becomes available soon,” Bradley said.

Niagara County Health Commissioner, Dan Stapleton, said the issue has proved problematic for hospitals across his county.

“We don’t want to go in the wrong direction and we need those PPE and those testing supplies now so we don’t slide backwards after we made so much progress,” Stapleton said in a phone interview Wednesday night.

While Stapleton assured there are “still plenty of test sites available” across the county, densely populated areas like Niagara Falls and North Tonawanda could suffer. He said the county is committed to continue working with partners like ECMC and Erie County.

“We want as many people tested as possible to really get enough data to know if there are areas that we need to get a little more committed to in terms of outbreaks,” Stapleton said.

It is urgent care centers, hospitals and some laboratories that are left to compete nationally for supplies in the commercial marketplace, where right now, demand outweighs supplies.

“We all need to make sure we keep up that pressure to make sure that our communities gets the testing supplies and the PPE that they deserve,” Stapleton said.

Meanwhile at the Erie County Public Health Lab, there are 36,000 testing kits on hand and every two weeks, reagents are reordered, which replenishes the month supply.

“We are in a better position than most other places in New York state and for that matter many other places in the United States,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said.

Erie County’s Public Health lab is one of three labs in the state part of the CDC Lab Response Network, which means testing supplies come directly from them. Erie County officials said there are no shortages at the moment through the network.

“Our tests are hot because we are able to turn the results around in 48 hours which most labs in this community cannot do,” Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said.

Catholic Health released the following statement on the issue:

"While COVID numbers remain relatively low in Western New York compared to other parts of the country, Catholic Health has continued to work diligently to maintain a 90-day supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to ensure the safety of our workforce. A new emergency regulation announced by New York State Department of Health on Tuesday is now calling for all hospitals to stockpile PPE within specific timeframes.

As COVID-19 continues to heat up in more than 30 states across the nation, according to New York’s latest travel advisory, Catholic Health’s Supply Chain Team has been working non-stop to secure gowns, gloves, masks and other needed supplies to maintain our inventory and ensure the system is prepared for any increase in COVID cases.

While we’ve been able to maintain 90+ days of high-demand PPE, COVID testing supplies have been more of a challenge in recent weeks. With several major hot zones requiring increased testing across the country, and supplies going to areas of greatest need, it is becoming more difficult to obtain large quantities of COVID-19 testing supplies.

As the demand for these supplies intensifies globally, Catholic Health remains committed to meeting the need of our patients and associates, while continuing to look for new avenues to secure additional PPE and testing supplies to care for our community and keep everyone safe."