Dozens of outpatient medical programs closed Tuesday because of the storm, but Buffalo’s major hospitals reported that key services remained open despite tight staffing at some facilities.
Mercy Hospital in the Catholic Health hospital system sits in South Buffalo, closest to the areas hit hardest by the storm. Essential personnel made it in to work, and all services were up and running, said JoAnn Cavanaugh, director of public relations for Catholic Health.
“But it’s basically all hands on deck,” she said.
Three nursing homes in the Southtowns, where closed roads and poor driving conditions prevented employees from getting to their jobs, reported that everyone who did arrive, from administrators to clerks, pitched in to provide care.
A check of a handful of services that cater to the vulnerable found them ready for the storm.
Organizations that operate some of the largest soup kitchens, including the City Mission on East Tupper Street and St. Vincent de Paul on Main Street, served food as usual.
Meals on Wheels for Western New York canceled deliveries today, but reported that it prepared clients at the start of winter for an emergency with its “blizzard boxes” that contain a two-day supply of canned goods.
“Surprisingly, people showed up early to see if we would be open,” said Mark Zirnheld, executive director of the Saint Vincent DePaul Society, which serves lunch to 185 to 200 people five days a week.
He anticipated early today that about half as many clients, many of whom rely on car pooling or public transportation, would show up during the storm.
“We don’t have as many volunteers as usual. But, with schools closed, some of us brought family members to help out,” he said.
At Meals on Wheels, marketing director Rachel Leidenfrost said that if the organization identifies someone who is without anything to eat, local police have supplies of the blizzard boxes and will be alerted.
“If we have to close, we check on our most vulnerable clients, to make sure they haven’t ‘dipped in’ to the boxes for a snack,” she said.
Emergency rooms reported fewer patients than normal. Those that are showing up are coming in for such issues as injuries from falls, back aches and respiratory illnesses, officials said. Erie County Medical Center also handled some cases of frostbite, said Thomas Quatroche, vice president of marketing and planning.
He said the hospital dialysis unit is open today for patients who want to use it. Patients with kidney disease typically need dialysis treatment on a regular basis to clean waste products from their blood.
However, ECMC canceled outpatient surgeries, closed outpatient clinics and asked staff from the clinics to assist in other areas of the hospital, Quatroche said.
“We did some inpatient surgery cases this morning. The doctors were here, and some people came in,” he said.
At Kaleida Health, about 25 percent of the staff at Buffalo General Medical Center and Women and Children’s Hospital were unable to make it into work this morning because of the driving conditions, spokesman Michael Hughes said. However, surgeries, even elective operations, were still being done, he said.
“We have not canceled, although that could change with the weather,” said Hughes, a vice president and chief marketing officer.
He said efforts were under way to pick up employees who want to come into work, and he characterized the overall response from staff as “fantastic.”
“A lot of people stayed overnight after their shift ended,” he said.