By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
As COVID numbers continue to rise throughout the county, Dr. William LeCates, Bassett Hospital president, says that the hospital is prepared for the demand.
“We have the ability to expand recovery areas,” he said in an interview. “Hospitals have to have these plans in place. We’re seeing an increasing number of community members become ill, and it’s not unexpected that some portion of them will need hospitalizations.”
Some are admitted in the ER and test positive at the hospital. Others had tested positive, and then got sick enough to require admission. Eight people have died since March; as of Tuesday, Dec. 8, 18 people were currently hospitalized, up from eight from the Tuesday before, and 13 over the weekend, with one in the ICU.
“We’re at higher numbers than we were last month,” he said. “And last month was higher than the month before, and based on the trends, we’re going to see cases continue to further increase in the region.”
Plans are constantly shifting, and the hospital is in constant contact with the county and state Health Departments over what to do if cases explode.
LeCates said that, for example, if one hospital in the eight-county Network gets overloaded with COVID patients, some are sent to another hospital to open up space. “We can work through our own network,” he said.
But LeCates warned that the hospital soon could face other issues, including closing for non-essential surgeries, if people continue to not wear masks or gather in bars.
“I think all of us have an opportunity to lessen the rise in the community,” he said. “Further increases could be blunted by cautions of things we’re taking for granted. We’ll look back and find this to have been a very important moment for all of us.”
At present, the hospital only has a “limited supply” of rapid tests, and CVS pharmacies and the WellNow Clinic in Oneonta are often booked. There are several Bassett testing “tents” throughout the county, including at the FoxCare Center and in Bassett’s back parking lot, but LeCates said there are no plans to increase the number of tents.
Appointments can be made by calling the COVID hotline, (607) 547-5555.
But the results can take between two and four days to come back, with one patient reportedly waiting 11 anxious days for their results.
In November, Bassett had to close the Fox Nursing Home and all hospitals, including Fox and Bassett, to visitors except for a primary caretaker or parent.
“We know the value of visitation with family and loved ones is important,” he said. “And it was a difficult decision. But these rising cases present a high risk for spreading COVID, so it was necessary to restrict visiting.”
LeCates is hopeful, however, that he will soon hear from the state on when they will receive the first rounds of vaccines. “We don’t have a date, type or amount yet,” he said. “But we’re making plans as best we can to receive it and administer the vaccine to staff.”
“All of us are looking to the end,” he said. “There’s a sense of fatigue, but there is also increasing promise, and that’s giving us hope.”