ROCK SPRINGS — The continual fluctuation in the number of COVID-19 patients in the community who need care leaves Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County to daily juggle its resources and staff.
Like many hospitals, Sweetwater Memorial continues to face an increasing number of COVID-19 inpatients, a shortage of nurses and clinical staff to take care of patients, bed availability, and the limited acceptance of patient transfers to regional centers for higher levels of care. MHSC is no different than other hospitals statewide and across the region in fluctuating among conventional, contingency, and crisis standards of care as outlined by the Wyoming Department of Health’s Crisis Standards of Care.
The hospital’s ICU was designated a COVID-19 unit early in the pandemic. Opening a second COVID unit during the Labor Day Holiday was an unprecedented move, said Deb Sutton, MHSC Public Information Officer. The surge in seriously ill COVID-19 patients made it necessary to designate part of the same-day surgery department as a second COVID unit.
Sweetwater Memorial continues to provide optimal care in its Emergency Room, Intensive Care and Medical/Surgical units, and throughout all of its Specialty Clinics. Non-emergency procedures and surgeries continue to be scheduled on a case-by-case basis. Call your physician for more information.
Here are some averages (fiscal years run from July to June) including ALL inpatients from different time periods to help lend some perspective:
Average Daily Inpatient Census
- FY 2018-19 prior to the pandemic: 12.6 inpatients
- FY 2019-20 including start of the pandemic: 11.0
- FY 2020-21 during pandemic: 11.4
- November 2020 through January 2021: 13.8
- June through August 2021: 11.2
- September: 20 (From 12 to 34 total inpatients per day)
Looking at those total inpatient numbers at various periods in September and isolating those who are COVID-19 positive illustrates the fluctuation in patient load and type of illness MHSC faces daily. For the first nine days of September, COVID-19 inpatients numbered anywhere from 10 to 19 daily. That number dropped over the next eight days, with an average number of COVID-19 positive patients down to about eight daily.
The census of COVID-19 positive inpatients didn’t top nine again until Sept. 18; it hasn’t dropped below 12 since then. Two recent days illustrate the surge MHSC faces: On Tuesday, Sept. 28, the hospital had 34 inpatients, including 19 who were COVID-19 positive. On Wednesday, Sept. 29, MHSC had 31 inpatients, including 17 COVID-19 positive.
While adjusting daily to the WDH Crisis Standards of Care guidelines, Sweetwater Memorial continues to provide optimal care, said CEO Irene Richardson.
“We make adjustments daily, sometimes hourly, depending on the number of patients we’re seeing and the type of illness they are being treated for,” Richardson said. “Non-emergent surgeries, bed availability in the different units, the emergency room census and a variety of other conditions are continually examined.”
MHSC Emergency Services Director and Incident Commander Kim White agreed and commended the entire MHSC staff for its willingness to pull together.
“Our nursing and clinical staff have been remarkable in working from the department where they are needed most,” White said. “The respiratory therapists and the people who work in imaging are often switching gears at a moment’s notice. The ICU and medical/surgical staff are brilliant at moving patients to where they need to be in order to get the best care. The nurses, providers and physicians in the Emergency Room are to be commended for adapting to new scenarios within minutes.”
Throughout September, the ER staff cared for an average of 42 patients per day, compared to about 34 visits per day in September 2020. The ER recorded 46 patient visits per day in August, compared to about 39 during the same month in 2020.
Since Aug. 1, Sweetwater Memorial has admitted 81 COVID-19 positive patients.
“With the delta variant surge, our COVID-19 positive hospitalized are requiring longer stays and more intensive care than we see with many other illnesses,” MHSC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Melinda Poyer said earlier this month. “With these variants, people are getting significantly sicker in a shorter amount of time.”
Here are some length-of-stay averages (fiscal years run from July to June) including ALL inpatients from different time periods to help lend some perspective:
Average Length of Patient Stay
- FY 2018-19 prior to pandemic: 2.9 days
- FY 2019-20 including start of the pandemic: 2.8
- FY 2020-21 during pandemic: 3.0
- November 2020 through January 2021: 3.6
- June through August 2021: 3.1
- September: 4.6
“What it comes down to, is much of this, the long hospital stays with a life-threatening illness, can be prevented,” Sutton said.
We need your help:
- Get vaccinated. MHSC shows that most of those now critically ill with COVID-19 and its variants are unvaccinated. Those who are vaccinated have a much better chance of not becoming critically ill or dying of COVID-19. MHSC’s drive-thru vaccine clinic is from 3-6 p.m. every Tuesday and Wednesday at the hospital. Booster vaccines also are available during those hours.
- Wear a mask.
- Wash your hands often. Use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
- Avoid crowds. Maintain a 6-foot distance.
- Cover coughs and sneezes.
- If you’re sick, get in touch with your healthcare provider. For primary care, Sweetwater Walk-In Clinic is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday at 3000 College Drive. To make an appointment with the primary care providers at the Family Medicine Clinic of Sweetwater Memorial, call 307-212-7708. TeleHealth services are available.
For more on this and all that Sweetwater Memorial has to offer, go to sweetwatermemorial.com.