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Staffing At Brooks-TLC Forces Surge Diverson

A Chautauqua County EMS vehicle is pictured outside Brooks-TLC Hospital System in Dunkirk. An EMS surge diversion was issued for the hospital Tuesday evening. P-J photo

DUNKIRK — Rising COVID-19 cases in northern Chautauqua County are not only causing capacity levels at the region’s health-care facilities to increase, it also is taking a toll on those who work there.

On Tuesday evening the New York state Health Department issued an Emergency Medical Services surge diversion, which recommended agencies to transport patients in need of care to a health-facility other than the Brooks-TLC Hospital System in Dunkirk. Mary E. LaRowe, president and chief executive officer of Brooks-TLC, said Wednesday that at one point on Tuesday evening, the the hospital on Central Avenue in Dunkirk was at 100% capacity. She explained that number has just as much to do with staffing as it does with bed capacity.

According to the state notice, the diversion lasted form 7 p.m. Tuesday to 8 a.m. Wednesday. “The current patient load exceeds the hospital’s ability to treat patients promptly,” the notice indicated.

An exception to the Brooks-TLC diversion, the notice stated, was to treat an “unstable patient that cannot be safely transported” to another facility.

Last week, LaRowe said the greatest issues Brooks-TLC was facing in regard to the latest COVID surge had to do with keeping staff levels appropriate. “We have a surge plan that allows us to add beds to accommodate a good uptick in patient census,” she said last week. “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.”

LaRowe said she was remaining in contact with officials from the state Health Department regarding the situation while praising her staff. “Our situation changes regularly, yet despite the challenges we are facing, I couldn’t be more proud of the our team,” LaRowe said. “They have been responsive, attentive, extremely flexible, and committed to the task ahead.”

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