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Health Department leader says removal of ventilators by state would put Orleans, Genesee ‘in a very precarious situation’

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 April 2020 at 5:24 pm

Gov. Cuomo’s executive order to take excess ventilators from hospitals upstate is deeply concerning to Paul Pettit, the Public Health director for Orleans and Genesee counties.

Paul Pettit

The two counties don’t have very many ventilators among their hospitals, only 13 with two at Medina Memorial Hospital and 11 at United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia.

Pettit said the local Covid-19 cases are rising, with 21 in Genesee and 9 in Orleans. He expects the numbers to continue to go up.

Covid-19 can cause a serious respiratory infection for some people that contract the virus, and they may need a ventilator to stay alive.

“This could put us in a very precarious situation,” Pettit said about the governor’s executive order. “This is very concerning to myself.”

The governor’s order also extended to each hospital’s supply of personal protective equipment – the N-95 respirators, gowns and face shields. Pettit said the local providers are going through the PPE at a fast rate each day.

“The last thing we want to do is not have enough when our peak comes,” Pettit said about PPE and ventilators. “I don’t want our communities to be in a precarious position.”

The governor said he would give a hospital back their ventilators and PPE if they face higher demand. The downstate hospital systems are facing the brunt of the cases right now in the state.

Cuomo sees the apex hitting downstate and then moving across the state. He would then redeploy the ventilators.

In his executive order, he said he will send the National Guard to get the equipment.

Pettit said the local hospitals and Health Department are pushing back through local state legislators.

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley, R-Batavia, issued this statement:

“I am absolutely dumbfounded at the steps the governor has taken today to leave upstate New York as vulnerable as downstate has been during this health crisis,” Hawley said. “Not only will upstate hospitals now be left with fewer ventilators for our citizens who need them, but an increase in transport of coronavirus cases to upstate almost certainly means the virus will spread even quicker in our districts. It’s the worst possible management of this crisis I have seen thus far, and I am asking the governor to rescind his Executive Order. Upstate and Western New York lives matter.”

State Assemblyman Michael Norris, R-Lockport, issued this statement: “The Governor’s Executive Order to take ventilators and health care equipment from our WNY hospitals puts our community and health care professionals at great risk. Once they leave our region there is no guarantee they will ever come back. The lack of testing for WNY makes this action an even greater concern, as we don’t have the full scope or handle of how far this virus has spread within our community. The Governor has mentioned a ‘rolling apex’ however we do not know when the apex for Western New York will be. The citizens of Western New York are rightfully concerned and the Governor needs to reconsider his executive order.”

State says it would redistribute 20% of unused ventilators

The Governor’s Office late this afternoon issued this statement from Rich Azzopardi, a senior advisor to Gov. Cuomo:

“In addressing the coronavirus pandemic, it is essential that we all work together. While the pandemic is primarily in downstate New York now – it is projected to peak and reduce in downstate and the increase in upstate. It is essential that we all help each other and the Governor is asking upstate hospitals to loan 20 percent of their unused ventilators to struggling downstate hospitals.

“Ventilators literally save lives. They will be returned or reimbursed to those hospitals. Moreover, when the pandemic wave hits upstate New York, the Governor will ask downstate hospitals for similar help. We are not upstate or downstate we are one state and we act that way.”

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