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Catholic hospital is first facility in New York dedicated to COVID-19 patients

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Western New York healthcare system converting St. Joseph’s Hospital for coronavirus response.

A Catholic hospital near Buffalo, New York, will be the first facility in New York State to be completely dedicated to treating patients with the coronavirus COVID-19.

St. Joseph’s Campus of Catholic Health, a network of hospitals, primary care centers, imaging centers, and several other community ministries, will have 55 to 60 critical care beds and 100 to 120 beds in all for COVID-19 patients, according to the Buffalo News. The organization was formed in 1998 under four religious sponsors.

Mark Sullivan, president and CEO of Catholic Health, told the Buffalo News that the move is being undertaken because of St. Joseph’s location in the town of Cheektowaga, it’s flexibility, and its “ability to act expeditiously and get the site up and running.”

Sullivan made the announcement Thursday, on the feast of St. Joseph, patron of the sick.

“This can happen quickly and effectively,” he said.

Converting the hospital will be done in phases. The facility will have 55 to 60 critical care beds and 100 to 120 beds in all for COVID-19 patients.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz thanked Catholic Health for its quick response to the emergency. “They cut on a dime,” he said of the St. Joseph Campus development. “They got this done in a very short period of time.”

He added that the county will need more hospital beds. He has been in conversation with others about using the former Women & Children’s Hospital and the Buffalo Grand Hotel for other COVID-19 hospitals.

Sullivan said that designating St. Joseph’s as a COVID-19 hospital “will allow ventilator units and personal protection equipment — still in short supply — to be consolidated and protect other patients.

“By concentrating our critical care staff in this area, we will be able to manage our infection control better to minimize risk and exposure to other patients within our own facilities,” added Dr. Kevin Shiley, an infectious disease specialist at Catholic Health.

Other Catholic Health facilities are still expected to also see COVID-19 patients, even if they’re not dedicated exclusively to their treatment.

Like many hospitals and medical centers, Catholic Health has already canceled elective surgeries, limited patient visits, implemented screenings and restricted travel for employees. Elective surgeries were cancelled, Sullivan said, because they required the use of gloves, masks and gowns that need to be available for COVID-19 patients.