Local hospitals preparing for Total Solar Eclipse

Local hospitals prepare for total solar eclipse in Rochester

Local hospitals prepare for total solar eclipse in Rochester

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The Total Solar Eclipse in Rochester is a once-in-a-lifetime event and for that reason, there’s no playbook on how to make sure everyone experiences it as safely as possible. That’s why our local hospitals have been preparing for the eclipse for the better part of a year. 

Hospitals and emergency responders are planning for an influx of as many as 500,000 extra people in our region.

“We want to be sure that we are ready to handle any potential increase or surges in volume, and interestingly our experience with the PGA showed that we didn’t have that large of spike in volumes, and yet we’d rather be over prepared than under prepared,” says David Chafetz, the director of the Strong Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Preparedness Team.

The biggest concern for the day of the eclipse is traffic. If it gets backed up, healthcare workers may not be able to get to work, and patients who need emergency services could be delayed.

“With the influx that would either be on the Thruway, 490, 590…if there is an incident that occurs on one of those main thoroughfares the traffic is going to divert, and it’s going to go into places that aren’t readily available for that influx of traffic,” says Robert Johnson, the Senior Director of Emergency Preparedness for Rochester Regional Health. 

Both systems will do normal daily discharges early on the day of the eclipse in hopes of avoiding any additional traffic on the road at the time of totality. A number of helicopter landing zones have also been set-up throughout the region that can be used for critical situations if traffic makes regular ambulance transports difficult. 

If cell signal becomes an issue, the hospitals have coordinated special channels and radios to be able to communicate with first responders. They’re paying special attention to where the larger gatherings in the region will be — places like Innovative Field, RMSC, the Regional Market, and SUNY Brockport. 

“We know Strong West, our free standing emergency department in Brockport, is likely to see an increase in volume. So, we’re staffing up there and same here at Strong. And in fact, one of the things that we’re doing is we’re putting a number of providers on standby — additional people on-call, so if we need to call in extra staff, we are prepared to do that,” Chafetz says. 

The advice to healthcare employees who have to work in-person on the day of the eclipse is something we should all take.

“Consider it possibly like you would for a winter event, snow storm, or anything else that way,” says Johnson. “Make sure, because if they get stuck in traffic, make sure they have essentials. Make sure they have medications, maybe some food, entertainment, a book or whatever else it may be.”

Neither major health system has told providers not to schedule routine visits on the afternoon of the eclipse, but because most of the region is coming off of spring break, it’s likely that volume will already be a bit less than normal days.