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Health News Press Release

Catholic Health responds to combat the COVID-19 crisis


As residents of Western New York continue to see the number of COVID-19 cases rise, Catholic Health is working to combat this deadly disease.

“The Coronavirus pandemic is a completely unprecedented public health crisis that has created a number of unique challenges for health care systems globally, including ours,” read a statement from Catholic Health. “Catholic Health’s ongoing response to COVID-19 reflects the organization’s top priorities during this time, as well as the need to care for our patients, associates and community.”

Catholic Health has converted the St. Joseph Campus of Sisters of Charity Hospital into the first dedicated Covid-19 treatment facility. The first patients were admitted into the Cheektowaga facility on March 26.

The site, which is now known as the Catholic Health COVID-19 Treatment Facility at St. Joseph Campus, closed its Emergency Department March 26 and discharged or transferred all remaining patients that week. Services at Sisters of Charity Hospital’s Main Street Campus are not affected by this change.

As the first dedicated COVID-19 treatment facility in New York state, the 120-bed inpatient center is equipped to offer acute medical and critical care services. Critical care services are being incrementally phased in over the following week.

Marty Boryszak, senior vice president of Acute Care Service at Catholic Health, is leading the health system’s overall COVID-19 Incident Response. Retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral, Rebecca McCormick-Boyle, RN, Catholic Health’s chief integration officer, was selected to lead the transition team at St. Joseph Campus and will continue to provide executive oversight of the facility.

“Turning an acute care community hospital into a COVID-19 treatment facility is not just a matter of flipping a switch,” said Mark A. Sullivan, president & CEO of Catholic Health. “What we were able to accomplish in just one week was truly an amazing feat thanks to Marty and Rebecca’s leadership, the tireless efforts of hundreds of people throughout our system, and the selfless management team at St. Joseph Campus.”

Along with other proactive measures Catholic Health has taken to respond to the escalating coronavirus crisis, Sullivan first announced plans for the St. Joseph Campus on March 19. Lauded by government and community leaders as a bold initiative in the wake of growing health concerns, the plan was designed to alleviate pressure on the system’s other hospitals, while responding to Governor Cuomo’s call to increase bed capacity throughout the state. St. Joseph
Campus’ central location in Erie County and flexibility to phase in services and critical care beds, made it the ideal fit to provide this specialized care.

“We were charged by the governor and our county executive to come up with creative solutions to deal with the crisis before us,” Sullivan explained. “Creating a central location to care for COVID-19 patients allows us to pool our resources to provide the very best care, while protecting the safety of our caregivers and community in a carefully structured environment.”

More than a dozen teams, with designated leaders from Sisters Hospital and throughout Catholic Health, were created to coordinate everything from infection control, staff education and logistics, to building operations, patient care services, and information technology.

“A major focus of our planning efforts has been on ensuring the safety of our care team,” Sullivan said. “This means equipping them with the PPE, specialized training and ongoing support they need to protect their health, so they can provide our patients with the highest quality care.”

Initially, the facility will be staffed by nurses and clinicians from St. Joseph Campus, and critical care physicians and specialty providers from throughout Catholic Health. “We had more than 900 associates and medical providers from across our system and 200 community providers step forward to work at our COVID-19 Treatment Facility,” Sullivan said. “Having that kind of bench strength will ensure we are able to staff this facility for as long as it takes.”

The St. Joseph Campus site is a “direct admit” COVID-19 Treatment Facility, not a walk-in care facility. That means patients who meet the facility’s admissions criteria, and have an approved physician’s order, will be admitted directly from other Catholic Health facilities.

On April 4, Catholic Health announced that, Father Baker Manor, the subacute rehabilitation and long-term care facility in Orchard Park which it oversees, found a number of patients and residents who have tested positive for COVID-19. Families of the long-term care residents in the facility were contacted and all staff and long-term care residents throughout the facility were tested.

“Father Baker Manor’s administration and our Infection Control team have taken swift action to stop the spread of the virus,” said Dr. Kevin Shiley, Catholic Health medical director of infection prevention and control. “We have been in close contact with local and state health department officials who support our mitigation plans.”

The facility is following all recommended Center for Disease Control and Department of Health guidelines for COVID-19 infection prevention, including restricting visitors, performing daily health screenings on all staff, eliminating group activities and rehabilitation services, and continuously monitoring patients and residents for signs and symptoms, until further notice.

Father Baker Manor is a skilled nursing and subacute rehabilitation facility for residents living with a diagnosed condition or requiring medical supervision. Our state-of-the-art facility provides an ideal environment for residents to live comfortably while focusing on wellness and recovery. The physicians, nurses, aides and rehabilitation specialists at Father Baker Manor work with each resident to develop a care plan that best suits their needs and supports overall health.

On April 7, Catholic Health announced that St. Catherine Labouré Health Care Center, a five-star long-term care facility in Buffalo, has 10 residents who tested positive for COVID-19. Seven of the 10 cases were symptomatic at the time of diagnosis. The remaining cases were detected as part of rapid testing that took place on the 40-bed unit to ensure all potentially pre-symptomatic cases were identified quickly before any additional transmission could occur. Because of the low rate of positive cases within the unit, only residents have been tested at this time.

Affected residents were placed in an isolation zone within the facility to help prevent additional transmission. Two of the 10 positive residents were transferred to area hospitals, with one returning to St. Catherine’s today and the other expected to return tomorrow. All families of the residents in the facility have been contacted.

The facility is following all recommended CDC and Department of Health guidelines for COVID-19 infection prevention, including restricting visitors, performing daily health screenings and providing personal protective equipment to all staff, eliminating group activities, and continuously monitoring residents for signs and symptoms.

Continuing to build on its “COVID-19 Continuum,” Catholic Health has partnered with the McGuire Group to reopen the former AbsolutCare Nursing Home in Orchard Park and convert it into a dedicated COVID-19 continuing care facility. Working closely in partnership with the New York State Department of Health, Catholic Health received plan approval in less than 24 hours, paving the way for Catholic Health to open the St. Joseph Post-Acute Center at 4659 Duerr Road
on April 14.

The first facility of its kind in Western New York, the center will offer short-term rehabilitation and skilled nursing care for COVID-19 patients who are discharged from Catholic Health hospitals but unable to return safely home or to other community based living facilities.

“As we began planning for the governor’s call to action to prepare for the COVID-19 acute care surge in Western New York, we asked ourselves, ‘Where will people go who no longer need hospital care, but may not be able to be discharged home or back to a long-term care facility,’” said Sullivan. “The St. Joseph Post-Acute Center will fill some of those gaps and free up our hospital beds for the surge in COVID-19 patients we expect to see over the next several weeks. We
are grateful for the guidance and collaboration we received from the Department of Health in recognizing the urgent need for a facility of this kind and for fast-tracking our request.”

Catholic Health has modeled the Post-Acute Center after the St. Joseph Campus Treatment Facility, including providing all required personal protective equipment and following special safety measures. Along with separate entrances for patients and staff, the center will utilize unique red, yellow and green safety zones, which separate restricted areas requiring PPE, from unrestricted areas, which do not. The center has its own entrance road, which provides further separation from other buildings on or near the campus.

“The lessons we learned from our COVID-19 Treatment Center at St. Joseph Campus were invaluable,” Sullivan said. “From their unique safety zone system to the clinical best practices they’ve developed, we are indebted to the team throughout Catholic Health and St. Joseph Campus for their forward thinking. By creating this ‘continuum of care’ for COVID-19 patients, we are able to care for for more patients across our community in the very best settings to meet their health care needs.”


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