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Other Hospitals Feeling Impact of Strike at South Buffalo Mercy

Other hospitals getting more visits to ERs, causing higher wait times and raising concerns about their capacity as they take on additional patients due to strike.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The strike by nearly 2,000 CWA Local 1133 employees against Buffalo Mercy Hospital be less than a day old, but it's having an impact on other hospitals locally.

Other hospitals are getting busier with more visits to their emergency rooms, which are increasing patient wait times and raising concerns about their capacity as they take on additional patients as a result of the strike.

At ECMC, the area's largest individual hospital which also serves as the regional trauma center, is just one facility where ambulances are being diverted to after Catholic Health, which operates Mercy, asked that patients not be brought to Mercy which is currently being staffed by as many replacement workers as Catholic Health could find.

Even prior to the strike, an ECMC spokesperson told us that through September admissions were already up 11%.

While things are manageable now, there are signs that hospital administrators are making plans in case gets overwhelming.

There is a triage tent outside the hospital near the emergency department which could be utilized if necessary.

There are similar tents set up outside the ERs at Buffalo General and Millard Fillmore Suburban hospitals, both of which are operated by Kaleida Health.

Adding to the increased load at other hospitals, are the measures taken by Catholic Health prior to the strike when it constricted services, such as maternity and in patient elective surgeries in an effort to reduce the number of patients at Buffalo Mercy. Patients are now seeking those services elsewhere.

Kaleida says that as it receives more patients, it is also ready to move patients between its hospitals, in a load balancing effort similar to the one it deployed during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kaleida also operates the Oishei Children's Hospital, which saw an additional 12 deliveries on Thursday, the day after Mercy suspended birthing services. According to a spokesperson, those dozen newborns had been due to be delivered at Mercy.   

And of course, Catholic Health is not exempt from this, as its staff at Sisters, Kenmore Mercy, and Mount St. Mary's hospitals also are dealing with more patients, as a result of their colleagues being on the picket lines in South Buffalo.

It's a situation that only figures to intensify the longer the strike here goes on.

"What we are looking for is the hospital and the union to sit down and to negotiate as quickly as possible," said  NY Lt. Governor Brian Benjamin, while visiting Buffalo on Friday evening. "We want to make sure everyone in Buffalo who needs to go to the hospital gets the attention that they need."

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