Local ER patient: Staff ‘stacking people like wood,’ as Bello declares state of emergency

Coronavirus

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Tuesday night, John DeCamilla, a patient at Rochester General Hospital said the emergency department was overflowing with patients. 

“They’re stacking people like wood. I’m basically in a closet,” DeCamilla said, adding that nursing and staff are doing all they can to treat patients at such a high volume.

He says one solution, might be to call in the troops. 

“I don’t like bringing the military in, but they have nurses, they have trained professionals,” DeCamilla said.

This is one example of why County Executive Adam Bello declared a state of emergency Tuesday to bring hospitalizations down, and to bring in extra help where it’s needed.

“We need to flatten the curve of hospitalizations now before the situation reverts to what we experienced last year,” says Bello.

Bello says under Phase I of the state of emergency: 

  • A facemask will be required in county facilities
  • A work from home policy for county employees able to do so
  • The county is encouraging local government, public and private sectors to do the same
  • The county also wants to expand rapid test in the area and will provide 750,000 rapid at-home testing kits for county residents

Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza said we need to get back to COVID basics. 

“Social distancing, masking, limiting our gatherings, and being cautious while traveling. Those things still matter,” Dr. Michael Mendoza said.

Dr. Michael Apostolakos with URMC urged the unvaccinated to get the shot.

“20% of the population who are unvaccinated, account for 60% of all COVID hospitalizations, and 80% of those who are critically ill in the ICU,” Dr. Apostolakos said.

Dr. Robert Mayo with Rochester Regional says elective surgeries might have to be canceled if this keeps up — something he doesn’t want to see. 

“Maintaining full access to medical care is vital for the health of this community,” Dr. Mayo said.

Apostolakos says, unfortunately, this spike in hospitalizations across the region doesn’t have an end in sight right now. 

“A significant minority of people are refusing vaccination, and our community is paying the price,” he says.

Bello says the state of emergency will stay in place until hospitalizations are stabilized. 

“We do not have to have a permanent pandemic,” Bello said.

Bello says if the region does not start improving with numbers, Phase II of the state of emergency will be declared, which will start looking into vaccinations and testing requirements.

To note, hospitals are also facing staffing shortages. Last week, News 8 reported that Rochester Regional lost 350 employees when the religious exemption for the vaccine mandate ended. 

Rochester Regional Health said in a statement late Tuesday: “We triage patients based on the severity of their conditions. Due to the high volume of patients as we discussed in the press conference today, wait times will be longer.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced an executive order Friday aimed at boosting hospital capacity ahead of a potential winter spike in COVID-19 cases. Hochul’s order allows the state health department to limit non-essential surgeries, if needed, to ensure capacity.

Bello said he’s been speaking with the governor on how this executive order will impact Monroe County, and said he will discuss the possibility of requesting assistance from the National Guard to address staffing shortages in hospitals.

“We have beds, we don’t have staff,” Bello said.

Gov. Hochul said the order also will allow the state to acquire critical supplies more quickly. The move comes amid growing concerns about hospital beds and staffing — as well as a new concerning coronavirus variant, omicron.

WHO officials said Monday that the global risk from the omicron variant is “very high” based on the early evidence, saying the mutated coronavirus could lead to surges with “severe consequences.” As of Wednesday morning, there were no confirmed cases of omicron in New York or the U.S.

The local health commissioner said delta is the more immediate concern for Monroe County.

“We know delta is here, and it’s here in force,” Dr. Mendoza. “We know who’s eligible to get the booster, should get the booster. We know there is waning efficacy, and a booster will help a further increase in hospitalizations. Let’s focus on what we can control. We know delta is here so rather worry about things that are our of our control, I think it’s prudent to manage what we can.”

Monroe County and the Finger Lakes region has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in recent weeks. According to the New York State Department of Health, the Finger Lakes region currently has 462 COVID-19 patients in the hospital, the highest it has been since February 5, 2021 (483).

Additionally, Monroe County is seeing its highest new daily case amounts, and seven-day average positivity rates since early January of this year.

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