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Auburn hospital adding beds, eyes more equipment as NY coronavirus outbreak worsens

Auburn hospital adding beds, eyes more equipment as NY coronavirus outbreak worsens

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John Fisher rests on a bench near one of the entranceways to Auburn Community Hospital after having lab work done Tuesday. The hospital has posted strict visitation guidelines for people entering the facility due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Auburn Community Hospital is one of many medical facilities in New York preparing for an influx of patients if, as projections suggest, the state's coronavirus outbreak peaks within the next few weeks. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed hospitals to increase the number of beds by at least 50%. Beyond the order, he's encouraging them to double capacity to care for COVID-19 patients. 

Cuomo is pushing for the expanded capacity as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases soars in New York. So far, 25,665 people have tested positive for COVID-19. 

Initial projections suggested that COVID-19 cases in New York would peak in late April or early May. Now, Cuomo believes it will occur in two to three weeks. He also revealed that New York could need as many as 140,000 hospital beds and 40,000 beds in intensive care units. 

For Auburn and other hospitals, there's a short period of time to prepare for more patients. 

"You're talking about a very significant logistical operational movement to increase that number of hospital beds and do everything that you need to do related to the increased hospital beds," said Cuomo, who added that availability of beds, staffing and equipment are the most important elements of the expansion. 

Cayuga County prioritizing critically ill, health care workers for COVID-19 testing

Matthew Chadderdon, vice president of marketing and public affairs at Auburn Community Hospital, said the hospital has an internal task force that meets daily — sometimes hourly — to discuss preparations for COVID-19 cases. The hospital is working to comply with Cuomo's order by purchasing more beds. 

Auburn, which is a 99-bed hospital, will add at least 50 beds. The hospital is working with its planning department, architects and emergency preparedness team to complete the expansion. 

With the high demand for personal protective equipment and ventilators, Auburn is competing for devices and supplies like other hospitals. It's working with Cayuga County to place orders for gloves, gowns, masks and other equipment. Those supplies arrive on a rolling basis and are distributed to the hospital and healthcare providers. 

The hospital does have some ventilators, but Chadderdon acknowledged that more will be needed. 

LIST: Cayuga County-area COVID-19 closures, cancellations, meeting/event updates

Because hospitals could be overwhelmed if there is a large number of COVID-19 cases, Cuomo directed local governments to identify potential sites for temporary hospitals. The temporary sites could be used to ensure hospital beds remain open for COVID-19 patients, especially those that require placement in intensive care units. 

The hospital has been involved in searching for sites that could be used as temporary medical facilities. Inside the hospital, Chadderdon said they're trying to keep the emergency room "as available as possible" so that people with serious illnesses can receive treatment. 

"The idea is that the hospital is prepared for any surge in COVID-19," Chadderdon said. 

Politics reporter Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at auburnpub.com.

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