ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Hospitals across Rochester have been battling with staffing shortages ever since New York’s healthcare worker vaccine mandate went into effect. Some battling this, even months before the mandate.

On Friday, one local hospital system says it’s having a major effect on their emergency room: longer wait times and crowded conditions.

“Some of the conditions we have seen are some of the worst I’ve seen in my career in terms of volume, and how busy it’s been,” Dr. Kamali, Chair of Emergency Medicine for URMC said.

He says the backup is not just Rochester, but everywhere. It’s contributing to longer wait times all across the board — not just for emergency room patients, but also paramedics as they wait to transfer care.

What’s causing it?

Dr. Kamali says this can be attributed to a combination of several reasons at once — COVID-19, staffing shortages and more.

“There are a lot of different things going on for years,” he said. “What we’ve been seeing recently is staffing shortages causing additional strains and limited availability of beds.”

It’s a problem many nursing homes are facing too. Some, even stopped accepting new residents.

But that in turn, is affecting hospitals.

“They then do not have the ability to take patients that would normally go to them from the hospital, so those patients remain in the hospital and that contributes to the conditions that we are seeing,” said Dr. Kamali.

He says the good news is, URMC is taking steps to mitigate this. Slowing down elective surgeries, reallocating staff, even placing some staff in waiting rooms to get a head start on care.

Governor Hochul has also announced several options to help health care systems, including bringing workers from out of state, or even the national guard.

Dr. Kamali says they’ll take any help they can get, but nursing homes might be the best place to start. 

“Help the nursing homes in other areas so that we can get patients out of the hospital, so we can try to resume more normal types of operations,” he said.

COVID-19 and the Delta Variant are contributing to the backup as well. URMC told News 8 there were 51 COVID cases on impatient floors, and 18 cases in the ICU, in early October.

Dr. Kamali says the vaccine mandate has not made a noticeable affect on staff in the emergency room, as the vast majority are already vaccinated. This has been a problem for other hospitals in the region also.

He says the backup shouldn’t be a reason someone chooses to go elsewhere, especially if the emergency room is more accessible to them, or if they feel they need immediate care.

Staffing shortages are affecting local urgent cares and dialysis centers as well. Fresenius Kidney Care announced a temporary closure in early October. A statement in part reads:

“We are working closely with patients impacted by this temporary suspension of services to coordinate alternative treatment plans and ensure they have continued access to life-sustaining dialysis…We hope to reopen our Monroe center as soon as we can safely staff and operate the facility.”

-Brad Puffer, spokesperson for Fresenius Kidney Care

News 8 also reached out to Rochester Regional Health for a comment on the status of their emergency, and is awaiting a response.