Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center has temporarily suspended all elective surgery procedures effective at the close of business Friday. The action aims to make more inpatient beds available in anticipation of an increase in the number of patients with COVID-19 who are expected to present to the medical center.
The medical center also announced it is responding to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s call to finalize planning for increasing hospital bed capacity by 50%.
In suspending elective surgeries, Chief of Surgery Michael Mitchell, M.D., said, “The safety of our patients, staff and community is of paramount importance to us and we will remain a fully functional surgery department. Only essential, urgent or emergency cases will be performed for the time being.”
Mitchell said Memorial hopes to be able to resume a full surgical schedule on April 13, which could be pushed back further depending on the situation at that time.
“We urge our patients who have elective surgery scheduled before that date to phone their physicians and reschedule those procedures,” he said.
In a related matter, Memorial President and CEO Joseph A. Ruffolo, as well as hospital leaders throughout New York state, were informed by the governor’s office today that they are responsible for increasing hospital bed capacity by 50%. Every hospital in New York is required to submit their bed capacity plan to the commissioner of the New York State Department of Health by Tuesday.
“I am proud to say that the Memorial team has already developed a detailed plan that exceeds the additional bed target set by the governor,” Ruffolo said. “A total of 56 additional beds will be activated at Niagara Falls Memorial to serve the Niagara community in the event of a sudden influx of patients due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
On Wednesday, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center suspended all patient visitation. This action is consistent with guidance received from the state Department of Health for protecting and maintaining the health and safety of hospital patients and staff. The state guidelines also aim to prevent the introduction of the novel coronavirus into New York state hospitals.
Very limited exceptions may be made if the visit is medically necessary (e.g. the visitor is essential to the care of the patient), or if the visit involves family members or legal representatives of patients in imminent end-of-life situations. Visitors to memorial’s labor and delivery unit are limited to one visitor per maternity patient.
In addition, Memorial is not allowing children under age 14 to enter any of its facilities, including the hospital, primary care or other outpatient sites.
Memorial President and CEO Joseph A. Ruffolo indicated that, to protect the safety and health of the frail and vulnerable elderly, no visitors are allowed at the Schoellkopf Nursing Home that is located adjacent to the main hospital building.
“However, using modern-day technology and innovation such as Skype, we are assuring our nursing home residents regular contact with their loved ones,” Ruffolo said.
Ruffolo said that, to date, the COVID-19 outbreak has not negatively impacted the medical center’s ability to care for its patients.
“Our management team is reviewing on a daily basis the resources, both personnel and supplies, needed to provide patient care. We are closely monitoring the current and projected availability of those resources,” he said. “All decisions regarding services will be made with patient safety as our top priority.
“Equally importantly, we are taking all available precautionary measures such as conducting temperature screening for all people accessing hospital facilities and checking the temperatures of employees multiple times a day.”
Ruffolo noted that, despite Memorial’s one COVID-19 incident, patients should feel safe and comfortable coming to Niagara Falls Memorial for care.
Area residents who believe they have symptoms of the novel coronavirus should call their doctor or contact the New York State Health Department’s coronavirus hotline at 1-888-364-3065 for guidance before visiting their local emergency department or urgent care center.