County Hospitals Have ‘Adequate Ventilation Capabilities’

MAYVILLE — One of the most precious items in fighting the coronavirus for those impacted most are ventilators. In the past week, state Gov. Andrew Cuomo has spotlighted the need for these accessories downstate — and across the nation.

“I need 30,000 ventilators,” Cuomo said at a recent daily briefing in response to a minimal federal shipment. “You want a pat on the back for sending 400 ventilators?”

Bidding wars over the commodity between states have been well documented. As their value comes at a rising cost, the machines are priceless in the effort to save lives.

Last week, during its most recent press briefing, Chautauqua County officials admitted they did not know the current numbers of ventilators currently in stock at hospitals in the region.

“I don’t have the number of ventilators … but I can tell you that no resources in Chautauqua County have been sent outside Chautauqua County,” Christine Schuyler, county public health director, said on Friday.

Since then, both the OBSERVER and The Post-Journal have reached out to a number of those tied to health care.

Our publications have learned that there are at least 15 to 20 of these machines in stock at the health-care facilities of Brooks Memorial Hospital in Dunkirk, UPMC Chautauqua in Jamestown and Westfield Memorial Hospital. The Chautauqua Center is an outpatient facility that has no ventilators.

Meanwhile, Warren General Hospital reported having 10 ventilators at its Warren, Pa., location.

According to media reports, there are some 200,000 ventilators in stock in the United States. Ventilators are mechanical breathing devices and are crucial in the fight to save patients whose lungs are assailed by the virus.

In recent days, President Donald Trump has announced efforts by General Motors and Ford got into the fray on Monday, to begin production of the devices. International companies are also stepping up.

Locally, officials are cautious when giving the numbers.

“We are not, as a network, providing specific numbers for equipment,” said Monica Lewis, Allegheny Health Network spokeswoman. “But I can tell you that Westfield Memorial Hospital has adequate ventilation capability for our licensed beds.”

UPMC Chautauqua noted it is “tracking everything — available beds, location of ventilators, staff availability — and … created a dashboard that allows us to activate our surge plans in response to the availability or resource and demand for services across our system,” said Karen Beardsley, spokeswoman. She also noted the system has an “adequate supply of ventilators and we’re exploring our options should we find we need more.”

In Dunkirk, the Brooks-TLC Hospital System announced it was working with the state Health Department in preparing for the possible “surge” of additional patients due to the virus last week. “We are and will continue to look at all areas to maximize our resources including equipment, space, and personnel,” said Mary LaRowe, president and CEO in a statement. “Our staff is exceptional and their efforts during this pandemic truly demonstrates commitment to the community’s health.”

As of Monday afternoon, the county had eight confirmed cases of the virus that has caused one death.

Due to the unprecedented events, Cuomo has called for hospitals to increase capacity. Brooks is working on this while UPMC Chautauqua noted its access to resources. “One of the benefits UPMC has in facing this pandemic is that we are a large system spread across a broad geography,” Beardsley said. “This gives us the ability to confront this challenge as a 5,500-bed system, not as individual, stand-alone hospitals.”


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