As a result of a supply shortage, Eastern Niagara Hospital and Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center have stopped their community COVID-19 testing services. Both have cut back testing to healthcare workers and those with observable COVID-19 symptoms only.
Joseph Ruffolo, NFMMC president and CEO, said the hospital has tested 7,000 people during the past three months and Kaleida Health Labs, where the hospital sends samples for testing, is now experiencing a shortage of reagent.
"About two weeks ago, the major supplier of reagent (to Kaleida Health Labs) said that they had been told to prioritize and redirect supplies to hot spot states in the south and west," Ruffolo said.
Patrick Bradley, NFMMC spokesman, said the hospital now will only test people who come into the Emergency room, healthcare workers, and elective surgery patients.
ENH is limiting COVID-19 testing to surgical patients, healthcare workers, in-patients being sent back to a nursing home, and people who comes into the Emergency room or Express Care with COVID-19 symptoms.
The shortage of testing supplies is being felt across the region, ENH spokesman Carolyn Moore noted.
Niagara County Public Health Director Daniel Stapleton said there were 13 testing sites within the county a few weeks ago and now there are six, which makes him worry about community access to testing.
"It's less access for the population. It's less access for places (where) people might not have transportation," he said. "Losing half of our sampling sites is not a good thing and if we want to continue to know what our numbers are, we need to make sure we get back to where we were a few weeks ago."
Stapleton added that "good data" is required to make decisions about school and business reopenings.
Despite the loss of testing sites, testing numbers are not down, Stapleton said, but that's because of addition to required testing categories, such as testing nursing home employees.
Staff writer Rick Pfeiffer contributed to this report.