OLEAN — Employees at Olean General Hospital and Bradford Regional Medical Center will have their temperature taken on their way into work beginning Monday.
If they have a temperature of 100.4 or above they will be sent home, Dr. William Mills, Upper Allegheny Health Systems vice president for professional and quality care told reporters during a conference call Thursday.
The hospitals this past Monday began limiting visitors. This coming Monday, visitation will be further curtailed; patients for outpatient surgery will be met at the door and their family or escort will be called when they can return to pick up the patient.
Scheduled surgeries have not been canceled. Elective surgery can also be postponed if not an emergency.
The hospitals’ laboratory and X-ray department will remain open.
Routine dental procedures will not be performed in the hospital clinic. Mills said this will save personal protective masks for hospital use. Emergency dental procedures will continue.
“We don’t want people with a toothache or abscess tooth to go to the emergency room,” Mills said.
Most area dentists have closed their offices.
Mills said that while there haven’t been any confirmed positive tests for COVID-19 among Cattaraugus County residents (as of Thursday afternoon), in his personal opinion, “we probably have it here now. If we have people we are highly suspicious of, we treat them as if they are COVID-positive,” he said.
The hospitals hold daily phone calls with Cattaraugus County and Pennsylvania health officials. Mills said there are 96 people under quarantine in Cattaraugus County, all who either traveled to China, South Korea, Italy, Iran and the Czech Republic or had contact with someone who has coronavirus. “We still have no positives,” he said.
“I’m hoping and praying all the things we are doing now will mitigate the number of people who become infected,” Mills said grimly.
Fewer than 100 people have been tested in Cattaraugus. Thirty-three counties in New York — including Allegany, with two confirmed COVID-19 cases and Erie with 27 cases — have reported the novel coronavirus.
“It’s here right now, and possibly in this hospital,” Mills said. “It’s everywhere.”
No state has more confirmed cases of COVID-19 than New York — more than 4,000 as of Thursday morning.
If asked, Mills said he would recommend colleges cancel in-person classes and go to online instruction. He said he would hesitate to send a college student home to an area where COVID-19 is more widespread.
“Staying here is probably better,” he said. “A lot of people live in places with a much higher incidence of coronavirus.”
How many coronavirus patients could Olean General handle?
“We have to stay open,” Mills said. “We have the ability to transport folks to Bradford” where a former maternity wing is being readied for critical COVID-19 patients. There are more than two dozen ventilators besides the ICU beds in both hospitals that would be available.
Because the Twin Tiers of Cattaraugus and McKean counties are largely rural and spread out, the social distancing is less of an issue than in urban areas, Mills observed. “It’s not a time to panic.”
Jeff Zewe, Upper Allegheny Health Systems president and CEO, praised the hospitals’ management teams and employees “for doing a great job” in the current circumstances.
“They are making the engine run,” Zewe said. “They have come together, united. All this coordination I see is wonderful.”