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Uneasy barometer

OBSERVER photo Brooks-TLC Hospital System was nearly filled to capacity on Monday, according to state numbers.

Both of Chautauqua County’s major hospitals are among those across New York state with 10% bed capacity or less, according to data released this week by the state Department of Heath.

As of Monday, the latest information to be collected, all 106 acute care beds were full at UPMC Chautauqua in Jamestown while 32 of the 35 beds at Brooks-TLC Hospital in Dunkirk were occupied. Meanwhile, four of the six beds at Westfield Memorial Hospital were reportedly occupied.

Gov. Kathy Hochul signed an executive order that allows the state Health Department to limit non-essential, non-urgent procedures for in-hospitals or systems with bed capacity at 10% or less. According to the state, there were 37 hospitals statewide that were facing a capacity crunch — including UPMC Chautauqua and Brooks.

“We’ve taken extraordinary action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and combat this pandemic. However, we continue to see warning signs of spikes this upcoming winter, and while the new Omicron variant has yet to be detected in New York state, it’s coming,” Hochul said in a news release last week. “In preparation, I am announcing urgent steps … to expand hospital capacity and help ensure our hospital systems can tackle any challenges posed by the pandemic as we head into the winter months.”

The executive order goes into effect Friday and will be re-assessed based on the latest COVID-19 data on Jan. 15, Hochul’s office announced.

The state’s recent data on available hospital beds doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Christine Schuyler, county public health director, on Monday noted that local facilities were facing a crunch due to a surge in new COVID-19 cases and staffing problems.

“I don’t think the public is realizing what’s going on in our hospitals,” Schuyler said, later adding, “It’s a scary time to be sick — a scary time to have a heart attack requiring immediately help.”

According to the Chautauqua County Department of Health, in information compiled from Nov. 21 to Nov. 27, there were 52 people who had tested positive for COVID in local hospitals. There were 50 people in the hospital from Nov. 14 to Nov. 20 — the most since January of this year.

The state, in its report Monday, said there were 25 COVID-positive patients at UPMC Chautauqua, 14 at Brooks and two at Westfield. The state also reported one person in the intensive care unit at the Jamestown hospital while there were four in Dunkirk. All four in Dunkirk were reported to be intubated, while the lone patient at UPMC Chautauqua was not.

Asked of the recent surge in COVID cases, UPMC released the following statement Monday: “We have seen a steady increase in COVID patients over the past several weeks. Our activity mirrors what is being seen throughout the Western New York region. Given this rise in cases we urge people to continue to get vaccinated, mask, and use appropriate social distancing practices.”

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