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COVID-19: Infections taking major area toll

COVID-19 is taking its most devastating hit on our region at this time. Twice within a seven-day span, capacity levels were so high at the Brooks-TLC Hospital System in Dunkirk that the Health Department had to issue a surge diversion.

Simply put, that means the staff-to-patient ratio is at the limit. No more patients can be accepted if less absolutely necessary.

According to hospital officials, who met with the OBSERVER in December, the facility at that time had 39 beds for those needing hospitalization. However, the bigger issue has to deal with staffing. Those employees who can help care for those needing immediate treatment.

“We have a surge plan that allows us to add beds to accommodate a good uptick in patient census,” said Mary E. LaRowe, chief executive officer and president of Brooks-TLC Hospital earlier this month. “However, staffing is the largest challenge for many hospitals and Brooks-TLC is no different. We are competing with staffing agencies across the country for nurses and other key front-line staff. Beds are not the issue right now.”

Other health-care providers also are being impacted in the most heart-breaking of ways. Long-term care facilities, such as the Chautauqua Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, are in the midst of a COVID crisis while social clubs in Dunkirk and Fredonia also have been linked to the spread of this vicious virus.

Lisa Barone, director of infection control and employee health at Brooks, said the following the guidelines of washing hands, distancing and having a facial covering make a real difference. “It’s hard to know what’s true, and what’s fact, and what to believe,” she said during the city school forum on Facebook live this week. “The protocols we’ve put in place do work. We have not had, at the hospital, any transmission from patient to patient, or from staff to patient, or patient to staff.”

Battling this illness is a community effort. We are all responsible.

Too many of our friends and family have been suffering. That means whatever we are doing is not enough. We need to be even more cautious and vigilant.

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