ROCK SPRINGS – Dehydration, altitude sickness, and car crash trauma are just a few of the potential health issues Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County could be called upon to help with during the days leading up to, the day of and the days following the total solar eclipse.
The health care professionals at Memorial Hospital are prepared with staff, supplies, and services. MHSC emergency management staff and department leaders have been in meetings for months planning for potential emergency scenarios, said MHSC Emergency Management Coordinator David Beltran. Hospital leaders believe it’s important to let the community know what to expect.
“We’re preparing the best we can for the unknown,” Beltran said.
Hundreds, even thousands, of people may be arriving in Sweetwater County starting next week as they travel to view the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse. Situated just south of the path of totality, this area is expected to serve as a base camp for some who can’t secure lodging in areas that are in the path.
Some of the potential health issues include altitude sickness, dehydration, heat stroke, sunburn, medication issues, heart problems, snake bites and trauma from traffic accidents.
Here are just a few of the areas MHSC health care leaders have targeted:
- Altitude sickness: With its high altitude and clear skies, Wyoming is attracting a lot of attention. Some of our visitors may not be accustomed to our elevation of about 6,400 feet.
- Dehydration, heat stroke and sunburn.
- Trauma from car crashes: Increased traffic on Highway 191 could lead to traffic accidents. Staff is in place and on call to handle emergency situations. Residents should be aware that traffic may be congested. Plan ahead if you’re heading north.
- Heart problems: It could be a potential problem with older visitors who come from lower elevations.
- Medication and supplies: The MHSC pharmacy is preparing all necessary medications including anti-venom in case of rattlesnake bites. Plus, the lab will be prepared with extra blood supplies if necessary. The hospital is prepared with extra medical supplies and medications.
- Protective eyewear: Be cautious of what you are using to view the eclipse. Make sure the eyewear you are using is appropriate for the event.
- Patient overflow: In the event you need medical assistance during this time period, be aware the emergency room may be crowded. MHSC will have extra staff available. If possible, consider using alternate care providers including those at the Family Medicine and Occupational Medicine offices at 3000 College Drive, and the Medical Offices at 1180 College Drive.
- Language barriers: MHSC understands there may be some language barriers. Hospital staff will be able to communicate with international travelers in a wide range of languages.
Area residents also are encouraged to be proactive.
“We’re sailing uncharted waters,” Beltran said.
Residents may not notice any increase in traffic, but it is good to prepare.
- Fill your cars with gas a few days before, he said.
- Have some cash on hand in case your nearby ATM runs out money.
- Go shopping the week before and stock up on groceries and water.
- Make sure prescriptions have been filled so you have enough medication.
- If possible, don’t make doctors’ appointments during that time.
- Be patient. There may be more people in town. Traffic may become congested with road construction underway. There may be long lines for some services. Visitors may start showing up the week before and may remain a few days after the event.
Most importantly, have fun and stay safe, Beltran said.