JAMESTOWN – Chautauqua County’s Health Director is warning if something isn’t done to relieve the overwhelmed hospitals in the area, dangerous and potentially deadly consequences await.
County Health Director Christine Schuyler spoke with WNY News Now about the issue ahead of a ban on non-essential, non-urgent scheduled health procedures at UPMC Chautauqua Hospital in Jamestown and Brooks Memorial Hospital in Dunkirk.
“If you have any emergent care that you need to go to an emergency facility for anywhere in this region, and I don’t just mean Chautauqua County”, says Schuyler. “Anywhere in this region you are going to be in for a very very long wait. If you need to be hospitalized to an inpatient bed there may not be one for you.”
At times, Schuyler says, patients are waiting up to eight hours, or even in some extreme cases, a day or more to be admitted for care in what she is calling a “local crisis.”
“There are people who are having to board or sit on a stretcher in emergency rooms, or in hallways for days,” continued Schuyler. “Waiting for either a bed to be admitted too, or a transfer to a tertiary or higher-level facility than can care for you. There aren’t people with bumps and bruises, these are people who are critically ill.”
In order to relieve stress of the hospital system, Governor Kathy Hochul is rolling out a “Surge and Flex System” which goes into effect in Chautauqua County on Friday.
“In light of the increase we are seeing in COVID-19 infections, as well as hospitalizations, we really are encouraging everyone who has not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19, to get vaccinated”, Schuyler explains.
She says the booster shot is also important to protect those against virus variants, and increase immunity as the vaccine wanes over time.
“So if it’s been more than 6 months since you received your second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine”, says Schuyler. “Or more than two months since you received the one dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine it is time for a booster.”
Of the new infections over the past month, the county reports 56 percent of those sick are not vaccinated, a stat that concerns Schuyler, who blames vaccine hesitancy.
“I don’t know what more I can say or how I can say it”, says Schuyler. “I honestly don’t think as a local health official there is anything more that I can say or do to get people vaccinated who are not vaccinated.”
In the last week, 873 new cases of the virus were reported in Chautauqua County with five new deaths, according to data released on Wednesday.
As for those who want to get a vaccine, several clinics will be taking place this month with both the first, second and booster doses available. Full details are posted at CHQGov.com.