OLEAN, N.Y. — The hospitals in Olean and Bradford, Pa., will not be taking in overflow COVID-19 patients from the New York City area, Upper Allegheny Health System officials said Saturday.

"There have been a number of misstatements and rumors on social media and websites relative to the efforts by Olean General Hospital and Bradford Regional Medical to increase bed capacity at both hospitals in anticipation of a potential surge in COVID-19 patients," Upper Allegheny, which operates Olean General Hospital and Bradford Regional Medical Center, stated. "These rumors suggest that patients will be flown into our hospitals from outside the region. This is not true."

Upper Allegheny said the goal at the hospitals, which worked this past week to increase bed capacity, is to create enough space to serve local needs.

Olean General reported Saturday it is caring for its first COVID-19 patient — a 35-year-old woman from Allegany County — in its intensive care unit.

"There is no expectation, nor have there been any indications that patients will be coming into our facilities from outside the region," Upper Allegheny stated. "At this point we do not think it is likely we will be seeing patients from other areas."

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo addressed the possibility of having to move patients from overwhelmed NYC-area hospitals during a press briefing on Thursday.

"I'm not eager to redistribute people from downstate to Upstate," Cuomo said. "That's the last option."

There was no "directive" — a word used in the Olean Times Herald's reporting in Friday's edition — from the governor that Upstate hospitals must take downstate patients.

However, while the governor didn’t offer any details, he said talks had started on how the statewide health system can better distribute the load of patients, syracuse.com reported.

During a conference call Thursday with local media, Upper Allegheny officials were asked about the possibility of receiving downstate patients — and they noted at the time that such a scenario could happen.

New York state hospitals have been asked by the governor to increase bed capacity in preparation for a patient surge by 50%. In Olean, the Outpatient Surgery Center is being reconfigured for additional hospital beds by April 1.

At Bradford Regional, the fourth floor will be reopened, allowing the hospital to accommodate additional patients as well.

"While no formal request was submitted by Pennsylvania, we decided to be proactive and plan for additional surge at BRMC as well," Upper Allegheny said in a press update.

On Friday there was negative reaction in the Olean and Bradford communities over the possibility of COVID-19 patients from outside the region being sent to the hospitals here.

In a letter to the editor that appeared in Saturday's edition of the Times Herald, Dr. Gary Karl, a local urologist, wrote that any such scenario runs counter to national, state and regional policies of quarantining COVID-19 patients.

"Not only will acceptance of these patients spread the virus into our community, it will use up already scarce medical supplies and personnel which, if this decision is not reconsidered, will eventually be needed to treat critically ill local residents," he wrote.

MEANWHILE, Upper Allegheny updated the community on overall efforts to prepare for increased hospitalizations:

SUPPLY NEEDS: Currently, OGH and BRMC have an adequate supply of PPE for our staff. With that said, we are also awaiting a shipment of additional masks, gowns and other materials. We plan to universally mask all staff once we have a new supply of masks. We are also awaiting the shipment of additional face shields which are being manufactured locally and will be delivered next week. We have an adequate supply of ventilators for both hospitals.

Hospitals across the U.S. are competing for resources. N95 and non N95 masks are in high demand among all healthcare facilities. Recently, a regional corporation donated 1,000 N95 masks to a hospital in its effort to help out. Anyone who may have an extra supply of masks and would be willing to donate them to BRMC and OGH, can contact communications@uahs.org.

STAY AT HOME: The New York and Pennsylvania governors have issued business and school closings in an effort to keep people at home. It really is an important step to help slow the spread of the illness. Medical staff are working tirelessly to prepare and care for patients. Taking preventative measures are vital to help healthcare facilities manage patient care during this pandemic. We know these restrictions can be emotionally and financially frustrating but it's important to do your part to keep you, your family, your friends, and your neighbors safe and healthy.

TESTING: For testing information, please call your healthcare provider. DO NOT CALL THE HOSPITAL OR COME TO THE EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT OR PHYSICIAN OFFICE PRACTICES. Communications have been sent to healthcare providers regarding testing guidelines. Healthcare providers will need to determine whether or not the individual needs to be tested. If the healthcare provider approves someone for testing, the provider (not the individual) will contact the

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH: The individual will be notified by the DOH if he or she should be tested and/or quarantined at home.

VISITATION POLICY: OGH and BRMC have suspended all visitation at the hospitals and The Pavilion.

SCREENING UPON ENTRANCE: We continue to screen all individuals that enter our facilities. We started screening employees on March 23.

IF YOU ARE SICK: Avoid contact with others; stay home when you are sick. If you have a fever (100.4 degrees F/38 degrees C or higher), cough or shortness of breath, call your healthcare provider and explain your symptoms. They will instruct you on how to proceed.

If your symptoms are severe, such as difficulty breathing/shortness of breath, pain/pressure in the chest, please call the emergency room in advance. They will give you instructions on how to get care without exposing other people to your illness.

CORONAVIRUS PLANNING: Bradford Regional and Olean General have established an organization-wide coronavirus steering committee and command center operation to address this pandemic. The group has been coordinating emergency preparedness, response efforts, as well as daily communication with state and county agencies.

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