Tents placed outside Olean, Bradford hospital emergency rooms over COVID-19

This temporary tent is set up outside the Olean General Hospital emergency room for screening patients before coming into the emergency room.

Temporary tents were placed outside the emergency departments at Olean General Hospital and Bradford Regional Medical Center on Tuesday.

Once operational next week, the tents will be used to quickly triage patients in an effort to unburden the hospitals’ emergency departments, according to Jeff Zewe, president and chief executive officer of Upper Allegheny Health System.

The tents will not be used as COVID-19 testing sites.

“In anticipation of high patient surge, we are proactively erecting the tents outside the emergency departments to improve efficiency and better care for our patients,” Zewe said.

Cattaraugus County has now recorded six COVID-19 cases among residents. There are now 10 cases in Allegany County and one case in McKean County. Two cases — a man in his mid-70s from the southeast part of the county and an Allegany County woman — have been at the Olean General Hospital ICU.

The lack of confirmed cases probably isn’t a true measure of COVID-19 activity in our communities, according to a press update from Upper Allegheny, which operates Olean General Hospital and Bradford Regional Medical Center.

Therefore, it is important for patients and residents to practice social distancing, staying home unless necessary, practice good hand hygiene, etc., to prevent the spread of this virus, according to Dr. William Mills, vice president for quality and medical affairs.

Mills said the hospitals have “an adequate supply of ventilators for both hospitals for our current volumes.” There is a sufficient supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) as well, the hospitals are without a stockpile, he added.

“We are asking staff to conserve PPE,” Mills said. “If we burn through supplies, even before we see a surge, we risk being in real trouble should we start seeing a stream of new COVID-19 patients.”

Zewe added that he believes, in the coming days and weeks, inventories of PPE will become more available given Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to centrally control and distribute PPE.

“We are awaiting a new supply of PPE including 1,000 locally made face shields,” Zewe said.

Hospital officials have added more than 100 beds at the two hospitals, at the request of the governor.

“At this point, we continue to plan for a surge to address local needs,” Zewe said. “We have received no directives nor have we received any information suggesting that patients will be coming to Olean from downstate.”

Primary care practices at the hospitals are offering phone and telemedicine appointments for those who prefer to stay at home during the pandemic.

The community “has shown our hospitals a lot of love and kindness through this pandemic,” according to hospital officials. “Groups are making homemade face masks and donating PPE, people have had food delivered from area restaurants to our frontline staff and local companies are producing face shields on 3-D printers.”

The Olean General Hospital Foundation has established the COVID-19 Response Fund, which will be used to directly support the frontline staff. They are also accepting donations of PPE for hospital use.

For more information, call the foundation at 375-7445.

Hospital officials’ best advice to area residents is to stay home, an important step to help slow the virus.

Those seeking testing should call their healthcare provider. Do not call the hospital or go directly to the emergency room or doctor’s office. The Cattaraugus County Health Department makes the final decision on who is tested.

If you are sick, avoid contact with others and stay home when you are sick. If you have a fever (100.4 degrees or higher), cough, or shortness of breath, call your healthcare provider and explain your symptoms. They will instruct you on how to proceed.

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at rmiller@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at rmiller@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)