OLEAN, N.Y. — Staff shortages have led to all elective surgeries at Olean General Hospital to be suspended, hospital officials announced Tuesday afternoon.
Dr. Jill Owens, interim chief medical officer at Upper Allegheny Health System, announced that Olean General Hospital has suspended all elective surgeries scheduled for after Tuesday afternoon.
“To be clear, this is not a bed capacity issue,” she said in the statement. “It is a staffing issue. In addition, the ability to transfer patients to tertiary facilities is very limited and, at times, impossible.”
All surgeries in “urgent and emergent cases” will still be performed, Owens added. “This decision is not made lightly, but the current inpatient conditions warrant immediate action. This step is also essential to be eligible to ask the state for additional staffing assistance. We have requested staffing assistance for multiple areas from the state, but are not optimistic that help will be coming any time soon.”
In September, Gov. Kathy Hochul reported she would consider calling upon the National Guard to help with staff shortages in the face of a COVID-19 vaccination mandate. It was unclear if the state Department of Health would utilize those guardsmen or assist with staffing in another way.
A hospital spokesperson told the Times Herald that the hospital has been offering increased compensation, signing bonuses and other methods to attract more workers from across the region. The hospital is using staffing agencies to help fill gaps, but the pool of candidates is limited.
Some form of appeal for help from the community is expected to be issued Wednesday.
Owens said Upper Allegheny “will monitor the situation daily” and make a determination for the upcoming week on planned procedures in order to allow time for scheduling any preoperative assessments and testing that need to be completed.
”It is our intention to resume elective cases as soon as we are able to adequately staff the clinical areas,” she said.
The news comes a week after hospital administrators announced COVID-19, staffing shortages, patient transfer delays and a strike at a Buffalo-area hospital were factoring into longer-than-normal wait times at OGH and Bradford Regional Medical Center. Signing bonuses for some positions range from $2,500 to $10,000, depending on the skills and certifications being sought of candidates.
More than 200 job postings for the two facilities have been listed on the UAHS website since July. Administrators noted that the majority of those postings are open, with positions covering administrative, medical and support services throughout the Olean and Bradford campuses.
As the latest local wave of the COVID-19 pandemic continues, visitation at the facility was paused Oct. 15.