BUFFALO, N.Y. — Governor Andrew Cuomo is renewing calls for hospitals to start identifying retired doctors and nurses. Available staff is a factor in hospital capacity, which is one of the state's five strategies to battle 'new phase' of COVID-19.
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said she's working with leaders of Western New York's three major hospital systems.
“We’re actually gonna have an actual count of how many people are available to staff, and calling on people who are retired to be able to be on a list if they need to be called up,” Hochul said.
In a statement to 7 Eyewitness News, ECMC said it will evaluate a list of retirees from the spring. It did not use any retirees at the time.
ECMC supports the Governor’s call to suspend elective surgeries on Friday and, in fact, our Executive Management met this past Friday with our surgeons to discuss this possibility, which is what we had done previously in March. We are seeking further guidance on whether that will affect both inpatient and outpatient procedures. We are following our surge plan, which was first submitted to the state on March 24th, and are closely monitoring our bed capacity. We also have the state mandated 90-day stockpile of PPE, which includes masks, gloves, isolation gowns and goggles/face shields. Regarding, retirees, we do have a list that was compiled in the spring and will determine if they could help based on the situation. No retirees worked here in the spring. Currently, we have both bed capacity and necessary staffing.
Kaleida Health said it is able to treat both COVID-19 and non COVID-19 patients at this time.
We continue to measure and monitor the daily impact of increasing cases on our hospital system capacity. At this time, the number of hospitalized patients is manageable, but continued increases will strain our staffing levels. Fortunately, we are not seeing the demand or need for as much ICU utilization as we had back in the spring. That said, this does not diminish the seriousness of the situation.
Outside of Erie County, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center told 7 Eyewitness News it did not call anyone out of retirement last spring, and hired a handful of traveling nurses.
In March more than 30,000 healthcare workers from across the country flew to New York City hospitals, but Hochul said the state cannot rely on that assistance this time around.
“That’s not available anymore because other states are being hit with shortages as well, so we’re gonna be on our own," Hochul said. "And that’s why I’m calling on Western New Yorkers, reduce the need for hospital workers by being smart, wearing a mask, and staying socially distant from people."
Both former healthcare workers and future healthcare workers stepped up to help with hospital staffing in the spring.
D'Youville College worked to graduate students a few weeks early last spring. Chris Verni, Dean of D'Youville's School of Nursing said that helped the community gain healthcare workers.
Verni said the college adjusted this semester too. Students finished their clinical rotations a few weeks early, ahead of a potential hospitalization spike that could pause the program.
“Unfortunately, again, not unique to D'Youville or the City of Buffalo, there are many health profession students who could not complete their program," Verni said. "So to be able to help any of these students get the requirements completed, even if on time, is a major accomplishment because there are many students who have just not been as fortunate.”
Verni said students are also assisting in conducting rapid tests for elementary schools.
Trocaire College said it's looking at all of its programs to see how it can fit workforce needs.
Trocaire College’s BSN students are post-licensure (that is, they are already RNs) so many are already answering the call and are able to work in the field now. Trocaire is currently assessing each of its programs and looking for opportunities to best serve the students and the workforce needs of the community at this time.
Staff capacity is one of several hospital factors that will be looked at when the state determines yellow, orange, and red zones.