Wydysh asks Cuomo for plan in regard to taking ventilators; Ortt says action 'endangers' WNY
On Friday morning, Gov. Andrew Cuomo pledged to sign an executive order wherein the state can take ventilators and personal protective equipment from upstate New York hospitals and reallocate them to downstate medical facilities. With a higher number of positive COVID-19 cases in the five boroughs, Cuomo said this is where the equipment is needed most right now.
Niagara County Legislature Chairwoman Becky Wydysh expressed concern about this course of action.
“I want to talk a little bit about the governor's live update today. If you were watching, you're probably as concerned as I am. I immediately started receiving phone calls from my colleagues, and residents,” she said in her afternoon community update on LCTV. “The governor mentioned that he's going to sign an executive order that would require upstate areas such as ours to send unused ventilators down to the downstate area, because they have an immediate need for those ventilators – as their numbers are so high and they're seeing those surges and peaks – that we know are coming for us in the future.
“Very concerning to me. I implore the governor, on behalf of this legislature and our residents, to really come up with a plan to roll that out.
“We understand right now that there are residents downstate in need and those lives are valuable. We understand if we have ventilators that are not currently being used, that can be utilized to save a life, that we certainly want to help do that. However, we've also heard the governor say, day in and day out, that it's impossible to tell exactly when that surge or peak is going to happen in your community. He has models that he uses and still doesn't know that exact time it will hit – just as we don't here.
“So, governor, there was a question asked today: What happens, two, three days from now, a week from now, if we need those ventilators back – if we're starting to see those surges and those peaks, and we have our own residents in distress that need those ventilators? And you didn't really answer the question for us. And again, we need to see that plan.
“We can't buy new ventilators, if you decide to give us money instead of our own ventilators back. That's why you're wanting to use ours, is because you can't buy them yourself.
“Again, we value the residents of downstate New York, just as much as we do ours, but we can't put ours in jeopardy – and no amount of money you can give us for a ventilator you borrowed is going to bring back a life that's lost here in Western New York.
“So, while we understand the idea of utilizing services and equipment in areas that are being the hardest hit, we need to hear the plan of how you're going to ensure us that we will have that equipment back when we have the need ourselves, and our residents are going through that crisis, before you take a single ventilator. Please, let us know what that plan is, and how you expect to handle that situation – before you take away the services and the equipment that we need here in the coming days, as well.”
In his press conference, Cuomo explained it this way: “We have taken extraordinary measures to build our stockpile of ventilators, masks and other personal protective equipment, but we still do not have enough. Our greatest challenge has been ventilators – we are running out of them in our most stressed regions of the state, and there are hospitals in other parts of the state that have ventilators that they are not using; and I will not be in a position where people are dying and we have several hundred ventilators in our own state somewhere else.
“I am signing a new executive order that will allow the state to redistribute these ventilators from institutions that don't need them now and send them to hospitals in other parts of the state that do need them. And when our curve is over, New Yorkers are going to take our equipment, our personnel and our knowledge, and we will go to any community in this nation that needs help, because that outpouring has been there for us."
The governor explained the National Guard will be used to transport the ventilators and PPE across the state. The equipment will be returned to the hospital, or the hospital will be reimbursed for the equipment in the future.
Ortt Joins Colleagues in Penning Letter
In a press release, New York State Sen. Rob Ortt said, "The governor’s executive order to seize ventilators from upstate and Western New York hospitals and move them to New York City endangers the residents, health care professionals, and individuals currently experiencing complications due to the COVID-19 virus here in Western New York. As the virus spreads across New York, with cases in upstate and Western New York on the rise, the confiscation of these stockpiles for shipment downstate will leave our health care system dangerously low when our apex arrives.
“Monetary reimbursements for these life-saving pieces of equipment will not do our health care professionals nor our residents any good if there are no ventilators or PPE available for purchase.
“I understand the current emergency facing the residents of New York City; however, the health and safety of upstate and Western New York health care workers and residents are just as important as those living downstate.”
In another press release, Congressman Brian Higgins said, “The concept of National Guard troops taking custody of ventilators, personal protective equipment and other resources from Western New York is unacceptable.
“My staff and I are speaking directly to health care executives throughout Western New York on a near-hourly basis. They tell us that chronic shortages of supplies and equipment, including resources for testing for COVID-19 still remain.
“For several weeks, our health care institutions have successfully engaged in monumental efforts to address the current crisis with a keen eye toward preparedness, and have done what is necessary to strengthen the health care infrastructure in this region. These institutions cannot now have their legs cut out from under them as we face the COVID-19 peak that surely lies ahead for this region.
“Our doctors and nurses and others on the front lines of this crisis continue to risk their own health and safety to protect the lives of those in Western New York. We must ensure these professionals have the resources they need to face the mounting crisis.”
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Erie County Medical Center Corp. President and CEO Thomas J. Quatroche Jr., Ph.D., issued the following statement:
“Over the past several weeks, ECMC, like all other hospitals in New York state, implemented plans and procedures to prepare for a surge of COVID-19 patients. We were asked by the governor to protect our communities and that’s what we have done. ECMC complied with the NYS health commissioner’s 50% surge mandate and prepared further for a potential 100% increase.
“The governor’s announced executive order regarding ECMC and other upstate hospitals sending ventilators to an unknown destination in metropolitan New York City jeopardizes that plan and will place our patients and community at risk and weaken our preparation for the anticipated COVID-19 surge in Western New York.
“We are concerned for the well-being of our fellow New Yorkers and we want to help as best we can, but we have never received a specific request by anyone in state government as to what was needed and where. We had been working closely with the Healthcare Association of New York State to identify hospitals who may have needed help and we were willing to do what we could as those needs are identified.
“Before announcing an executive order, a solution to work collaboratively and request exactly what is needed would have been a more responsible approach. We believe that other options should be explored immediately, collaboratively, with other health care institutions across the state and the NYS Department of Health.
“We continue to have scarce resources – both PPE and equipment – and when the surge comes we need to protect our nurses and caregivers. Most importantly, we need lifesaving resources for our friends, relatives and neighbors. This executive order is not the best approach to ensure their care and safety.
“ECMC sees some of the sickest patients in our community and, as Western New York’s only Level 1 Adult Trauma Center, as well as a vitally important safety net hospital for our region’s at-risk and economically challenged residents, we have always had the ability to treat everyone and save lives; and because of today’s announcement, we are concerned that this ability will be put in jeopardy.”
Kaleida: Cannot Jeopardize WNY Medical Professionals
Kaleida Health President of CEO Jody L. Lomeo said, “Our disaster planning and implementation for the coronavirus over the past three-four weeks has been based upon the state’s daily request for preparedness and the expectation that the surge is coming, and in particular, to Western New York.
“We have been following the state’s lead in ‘preparation for the apex of the curve.’ That, the experts say, is anywhere from one-three weeks away. No one knows exactly when it will hit us.
“Our current situation is manageable and our 100% capacity surge plan – at the state’s request – is achievable. This all happening at the same time that we are still taking care of hundreds of other cardiac, stroke, pediatric and emergency patients on a daily basis.
“Hoping for no surge here or a promise of reimbursement for ventilators in the future – at time of great uncertainty – would be irresponsible. I cannot jeopardize our workforce and the very patients that we are responsible to care for.
“As I have said and will continue to say, we are always willing to help our neighbors, but not at the expense of the community that we are accountable for.
“So today I stand shoulder to shoulder with our physicians, nurses and staff to oppose this executive order that is designed to pit upstate versus downstate. In a time of crisis, we do not have the luxury of spending time on public fights and mandates like this.
“Instead, I would welcome and encourage us all to develop a more collaborative plan that doesn’t jeopardize lives and result in further chaos and panic.
“Of note: I also serve as chair-elect of the Greater New York Hospital Association, so I am acutely aware of the plight that my colleagues from New York City are currently in. My heart goes out to them. However, our community does not need the real or perceived implications that our supplies and equipment are going to be diverted downstate.
“Moving forward, we will continue to do everything in our power to protect the health and wellness of Western New Yorkers.
“We have a responsibility here in this community. We will be helpful where and when we can, but not to the detriment of the hard working staff and the patients that trust us for their care. It’s as simple as that.”
Kaleida Health pointed out that, as of Friday afternoon,
Catholic Health Response
On Saturday, Catholic Health President and CEO Mark Sullivan, said, “Catholic Health understands why Gov. Cuomo is compelled to take this action. He is watching unspeakable tragedies unfold in our state. If our system has capacity, we are willing to help our fellow New Yorkers at any time. Based on our modeling projections for the region, we expect to have all our ventilators in use by mid-April. We are working closely with the governor and Commissioner Zucker's teams, providing updated utilization and predictive models that support Catholic Health’s surge plan. We continue to collaborate with government and private sector partners in an effort to access supplies and equipment as we remain steadfast in our commitment to care for the patients of Western New York.”
Late Friday afternoon, Senior Adviser to the Governor Rich Azzopardi said, "In addressing the coronavirus pandemic, it is essential that we all work together. While the pandemic is primarily in downstate New York now – it is projected to peak and reduce in downstate and then increase in upstate. It is essential that we all help each other, and the governor is asking upstate hospitals to loan 20% of their unused ventilators to struggling downstate hospitals.
"Ventilators literally save lives. They will be returned or reimbursed to those hospitals.
"Moreover, when the pandemic wave hits upstate New York, the governor will ask downstate hospitals for similar help.
"We are not upstate or downstate. We are one state and we act that way."
The Niagara County Health Department today released the following update on positive COVID-19 cases in Niagara County:
Visit the “heat map” for updates.
As of 8 p.m. Friday, Erie County had received reports of 802 total positive lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases. Twenty two Erie County residents have died, and 141 people have recovered. There are currently 639 people in isolation.
NYSDOH provided the following data about the reported results of COVID-19 laboratory testing for Erie County. As of Thursday, 2,916 people in Erie County had COVID-19 tests performed at all labs reporting to NYSDOH ECLRS. Of those, 707 were positive, while 2,192 were negative. That represents a substantial increase from the previous day’s cumulative total of 2,127.
The ECDOH office of epidemiology and the Erie County Department of Environment and Planning’s office of geographic information systems are working to update the online COVID-19 case mapping tool with ZIP code data. This feature will be included in the online map soon. Visit www.erie.gov/covidmap.