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Wyoming County's only hospital is bursting because of COVID

Wyoming County Community Hospital
Kevin Carlson

Wyoming County's only hospital is not only full, it's overflowing. COVID is tying up the Warsaw facility. CEO Joe McTernan said 60% of his patients are COVID cases and most are unvaccinated.

As of Dec. 13, 50.87% of the county's population of 40,565 residents had received one vaccine dose, 47.54% were fully vaccinated, according to the state.

McTiernan's 62 beds are full, as is the Emergency Department, because there's no way to move patients into regular hospital beds. They're full, as well.

All this creates problems for anyone who comes in from a trauma incident. And on the other end of the process, nursing homes are full so patients can't be discharged to a lower level of care from the acute care of a hospital.

"We don't shut down. We remain open. We remain caring for those patients. It becomes challenging, though, and it's something that we're committed to as part of our mission for the hospital and is who we are as a community," McTiernan said.

Just Monday, the State Health Department said there were 15 new COVID cases in the county. Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Rebecca Ryan has decreed a "health emergency" because of COVID and what it's doing to the county's hospital.

McTernan said he checks every day to see if the FDA has approved new COVID treatment pills, which would be taken at home, keeping patients out of the hospital.

"We want to make sure that whatever comes out is vetted appropriately through the FDA and the CDC and that when we receive the treatment, that we have a strong confidence that they are safe for the public," he said. "We're excited about the possibility of new treatment options."

An offshoot is the shutdown of elective surgery cases, which provide revenue for the hospital system. McTernan said there are at least 100 patients waiting for operations like knee and hip replacements who can't get them and can't be sent to a different hospital for surgery because they're equally full. That leaves those patients with pain and impaired lives.

"When you look at overall trends in the population, you want to make sure that people get preventive services. You want to make sure that people aren't in pain. So joint replacements, knee replacements, hip replacements are a key component of that," he said. "People are in pain, they're suffering. And part of what we do, beyond the financial impact of elective services. is to alleviate a lot of that pain and discomfort."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.