News of Otsego County

Dr. William LeCates

LeCates: ‘Important Moment

LeCates: ‘Important Moment

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Dr. LeCates

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.”

Only One COVID Case Left Locally

Only One COVID

Case Left Locally


COOPERSTOWN – Just one case.

That’s where Otsego County’s COVID-19 numbers are right now.

The Tuesday, May 5, data from the county Health Department showed, for the first time, no new cases for the past five days.

Of the 62 total cases found in the county since March 23, 57 had recovered and four had succumbed to the virus. The one remaining patient is hospitalized.

County Public Health Director Heidi Bond pronounced the numbers “great news,” but said that the virus is still circulating in surrounding counties and new cases are being reported.

To the north in Herkimer County, for example, there are still 18 active cases, though no one is currently hospitalized.

Bond expressed optimism about careful reopening in the near future.

“As a region we do not yet meet the criteria to open up,” she said. “Our region may meet the criteria by the 15th and then we will open utilizing guidance put out by the state and the CDC.”

That doesn’t mean this ordeal is over, she cautioned. “I don’t think anyone should think we are out of the woods yet.”

Governor Cuomo has designated May 15 as the end of his “New York PAUSE” period in which statewide social distancing measures must be in place. After the 15th, some regions may be allowed to slowly reopen under strict guidelines.

He announced Friday, May 1, that schools across the state will not reopen this year.

At Bassett Healthcare Network’s flagship hospital in Cooperstown, doctors are awaiting the go-ahead to begin outpatient and elective surgeries in earnest.

Under New York PAUSE, such surgeries had been put on hold statewide so that hospitals could free up beds for the possible wave of COVID-19 patients, but most of those beds were never needed. Without those procedures, revenue is being lost and staff is being affected.

Cuomo announced last week that hospitals in some counties could resume the surgeries, but Otsego was not on the list. Even facilities in Herkimer County, with its larger number of COVID cases, was allowed to start up again. Some of those facilities are even in Bassett’s network, like Little Falls Hospital.

Bassett Hospital President William LeCates said it’s likely that Otsego County didn’t make the list because there are fewer intensive care beds here.

“Bassett has the only intensive care beds in Otsego County,” he said. “They want to make sure that we have plenty of intensive care beds at any point in time in case a recurrence of COVID occurs.”

Such recurrences have happened in other areas, and hospitals everywhere need to be prepared, he said. Bassett would need to be able to provide beds for COVID cases, as well as seriously ill patients and elective surgery patients if a sudden resurgence occurred.

LeCates said Bassett has that capacity and has now submitted its evidence to the state.

“I think we have a very favorable case that we are well prepared to do all aspects of care for our population,” he said.

LeCates said the community has reason to be cautiously optimistic about reopening.

“One measurement of success is the low number of positive cases we see in Otsego County,” he said.

Those low numbers reflect the very careful attention people in our communities are paying to social distancing,” he said. “It can be very difficult and a burden for businesses and for people’s social practices, but it has brought us success.”

And if the virus does come back here?

“We have learned a great deal about it and will be better prepared,” Lecates said. “Researchers and doctors are learning more about the disease every day, and communities now have experience with working together in a health crisis.

“There’s a strong partnership between Otsego County, our hospital system and local organizations, employers and schools. I think that close partnership is so important in our ability to respond to situations that haven’t happened yet.”

With Elective Surgery, Bassett Normalizing

With Elective Surgery,

Bassett Normalizing


COOPERSTOWN – As COVID-19 cases slow and the virus appears more contained, Bassett Hospital is beginning to start the process of returning to a new version of normalcy.

“We realized that things that could be put off for a few weeks can no longer be deferred,” said Dr. William LeCates, hospital president. “What was elective for a week or two is often not
for two to three months.”

All elective surgeries had been canceled by state order to make those beds available for COVID-19 patients and out of fear other patients would catch the virus.

However, with Bassett’s COVID-19 numbers declining for the second week in a row, Governor Cuomo said last week that he will soon allow elective surgeries to start again in areas like Otsego County, where there are few COVID patients.

He has yet to issue the executive order that would trigger that change, but the hospital is already choosing to let certain postponed surgeries move forward, LeCates said.

Procedures to address very slow-moving cancers were delayed but may start again, as might surgeries related to chronic pain, he said.

Decisions as to whether to proceed with surgeries are being made carefully by the patient’s doctors.
“We look at each individual patient and the needs of that person,” LeCates said.

Because of the reduction in non-COVID patient visits, Bassett had reallocated some staff to coronavirus-related work. Other staff whose workloads have decreased have been asked to take some of their paid vacation for now.

As the surgeries gradually start up again, those employees will return to their regular jobs and schedules, LeCates said.

The hospital will continue to observe strict precautions as it returns to its previous rhythm, he said.

Those entering the hospital may find themselves having their temperatures taken and patients undergoing procedures may have COVID tests to ensure that other patients and hospital staff are safe.

Positive results for the virus that causes COVID-19 now hover at less than 5 percent of those tested said LeCates.

On Tuesday, April 28, Otsego County Health Department data show the county has had 61 confirmed cases of the disease, and of those 46 have recovered.

Bassett Splits Duties Of CEO, President

Bassett Splits Duties

Of CEO, President

Dr. Brown Will Run Network;

New Hospital President Sought

Vance Brown is focusing his efforts on overseeing the Bassett Healthcare Network.

COOPERSTOWN – The Bassett Healthcare Network today announced it is breaking off the responsibilities of Bassett Hospital president from those of network CEO after the network board adopted an “active parent” model of management on Jan. 1.

Dr. Vance M. Brown, who has held both positions, said will remain as network CEO, and that Dr. William LeCates, medical director and VP of medical affairs, will become deputy president of the hospital while a transition team recruits a president.

Bassett Promotes Dr. LeCates To Vice President For Quality

Bassett Promotes Dr. LeCates

To Vice President For Quality

Dr. LeCates

COOPERSTOWN – Dr. William LeCates, Bassett Hospital medical director, has taken on the additional title of vice president of medical affairs, President & CEO Vance Brown announced today.

In his new role, LeCates will oversee the Care Management & Clinical Excellence program, including “quality management, clinical effectiveness, infection control, risk management, accreditation and regulatory readiness,” Brown said.

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