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Articles to Stay Healthy.

The pandemic’s impact on health systems

By Mary Zelazny, CEO, Finger Lakes Community Health, an independent health care organization with 8 health centers in the region.

It’s no secret that the pandemic has affected almost all aspects of business, and health care is no exception. I’m not surprised anymore when I go to a store and the item I’m looking for isn’t there – for weeks. Nor am I surprised when I call a health system, help desk, or other business and get a message saying, “there will be longer than normal wait times” and that I can call back or leave a message. Immediate responses are hard to get. Yet that’s what we strive for at Finger Lakes Community Health (FLCH).

As the CEO of Finger Lakes Community Health, it’s up to my team and me to ensure that we make creative adjustments to our systems during this pandemic to serve the community. Our focus has been on providing comprehensive healthcare services to our patients, including Covid testing and vaccines for those who are not our patients. We have partnered with several local public health departments to provide COVID testing to everyone – especially those on the front lines and our first responders.
As many of you know, we now hold vaccine events so that everyone who wants a vaccine or booster can get them. I’d like to thank our staff for putting in the extra time to hold these weekly vaccine events, many times at night and on weekends.

We now receive 8,000 calls per week.

We understand that our patients often need answers quickly. We see that every day in our call volume which has almost doubled since the beginning of the pandemic. Currently, we take 7-8,000 calls per week compared to 4,000 calls prior to the pandemic. In addition, we, like many other organizations, are having a difficult time recruiting enough staff to support the work we do. We continue to try and hire and train new staff so that we can meet the needs of the communities we serve.

And like many of you who have had to take time off from work due to COVID-related issues, so have our health care workers. After all, they are moms, dads, and grandparents. If they aren’t sick themselves, often their children or family members are, and they miss work. In a week’s time, we could have 10-15% of our staff out sick. Other healthcare systems in the area report even higher numbers.

How are we going to improve customer service at Finger Lakes Community Health?

Communication with our patients is so important and so our Call Center is a priority for us. We understand that patients want to talk with a qualified individual, but our nursing teams are often busy with patient care. We have added nursing staff to our Call Center to answer medical questions, and get lab results and other information for callers. We’re hoping to hire additional clinical staff to assist and get quicker information to our patients.

Until we’re fully staffed at the Call Center, we’ve implemented an “all hands on deck” policy so that our providers and other staff are available to answer medical questions and often, to make appointments.
We are also encouraging our patients to use the Patient Portal where they can manage their healthcare information online when it’s most convenient for them. In the Portal, you can get direct information such as lab and COVID results, request appointments and medication refills, and so much more. If you are a patient and do not have a patient portal account, please email us at or visit our website for instructions

Patience during the pandemic

Unfortunately, we’ll be living with COVID and its effect on healthcare for an indefinite period. We continue to look for innovative ways to serve our patients. We appreciate your patience as we work through this difficult time.



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