As of Thursday, Cattaraugus and McKean counties still do not have any confirmed cases of the coronavirus. In other unchanged news, COVID-19 testing remains the biggest issue.
Neither piece of news stopped Dr. William Mills, senior vice president of Quality and Professional Affairs at Upper Allegheny Health System, from stressing that Olean General Hospital and Bradford Regional Medical Center are gearing up and getting ready. Or, as Jeff Zewe, president and CEO of Olean General Hospital and Upper Allegheny Health System, stated during the media call he shared with Mills: “We are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.”
During Tuesday's media call, Zewe had said that between Olean General and Bradford Regional hospitals, well over 350 beds will be available as part of Upper Allegheny Health System’s surge plan. During Thursday’s media call, Zewe said UAHS will convert its Mildred Milliman Outpatient Surgery Center at 500 Main St., Olean, into a 75-bed hospital.
“We have a team that’s going to work all day, all night and into the weekend,” Zewe said, “and by April 1, we’re going to create our ambulatory surgery center essentially into a 75-bed hospital.”
Zewe said, “The virus is progressing. It's doubling every four days. We need to be mindful of the bed capacity in New York State. We need to be ready to support, and first and foremost, to serve our communities.”
Cuba Memorial Hospital, according to Mills, will not be used for COVID-19-related treatment.
“They have very little capacity there,” Mills said. “They also have the nursing home, so the state is very strongly trying to dissuade any places from taking patients with the nursing home being so close.”
As part of New York State’s surge plan, COVID-19 patients in New York City could be sent to hospitals in other parts of the state. Mills said he believes Olean General is a part of that plan.
“Gov. Andrew Cuomor had a call with hospital CEOs,” Mills said. “That question was asked by other rural hospitals, and he said, ‘absolutely.’ ”
Mills continued, “Our plan would be to accept that if we needed to. We are expecting to receive people. We don’t know how that’s going to work, so it’s hard to know what it means.”
Zewe added, “At the end of the day, I hope we don’t have to receive one patient, but we obviously need to be prepared when it happens.”
Regarding respirators: Mills said they have a total of 22. He added that Kaleida Health, which is affiliated with OGH and BRMC, ordered a number of respirators, but doesn’t know if the two will get any.
The expected influx of supplies does not include test kits. Mills said most hospitals are only testing patients who are sick enough to require admission to the hospital.
“Everybody else is not being tested,” Mills said. “There is no testing on demand. Stay tuned. Let’s see if the state can get some out here. County health would love to have testing sites. We just don’t have them.”
Mills said, “We’re doing okay using them the way we do. We have a strict criteria for who in the hospital gets tested.”
Zewe said Dr. Kevin Watkins, Cattaraugus County’s health director, has put in an order for 30,000 tests.
“We’re waiting to hear back," Zewe said. "We will have a formal plan and how we need to prioritize testing. We just need to get tests here.”
For more information on the Coronavirus in the Greater Olean area, visit TAPinto Greater Olean's Coronavirus Updates page, which is updated continuously.
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