Dunn: Though overall numbers down, more seriously ill people visiting WMC respiratory clinic - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Dunn: Though overall numbers down, more seriously ill people visiting WMC respiratory clinic

Dr. Andy Dunn, chief of staff at the Wyoming Medical Center, poses outside of the temporary respiratory clinic set up by the WMC in response to the coronavirus pandemic. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. – Fewer people overall are visiting the Wyoming Medical Center’s Respiratory Symptom Screening Clinic since it first opened over a month ago.

However, the total number of seriously ill patients has risen, according to WMC Chief of Staff Dr. Andy Dunn. Dunn is also Chief of Primary Care for the Wyoming Health Medical Group.

“Although we’re down in numbers, we’re seeing double or triple the number of people who are eligible for (COVID-19) testing,” said Dunn.

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The clinic was slammed with visitors when it first opened. According to Dunn, it was near peak flu and cold season which likely caused many people to suspect coronavirus at first.

Now he says people arriving tend to have specific symptoms of coronavirus, including the loss of taste and smell along with breathing difficulties, fever and aches.

The clinic was opened at 245 S. Fenway St. as a temporary measure to keep people with coronavirus from overwhelming the ER, and to contain the threat of spread from the highly contagious virus.

Now, the Dr. Dunn and the WMC want to remind people that even in a pandemic, it’s still important to seek proper medical care for emergencies.

“Our ER is not closed,” said WMC spokesperson Kristy Bleizeffer, “and people who have symptoms of heart attack or stroke still need to call 911.”

“Don’t put it off because you’re scared of the ER or the threat of spread, you need to get treated for those kind of things because you’ll have negative consequences later on,” she said.

“The beauty of this clinic is it’s helped offload so much from the ER,” said Dunn, “so they’re keeping their employees and providers healthy, and able to take care of their patients.”

“The ER is the heart of the hospital, so how the ER goes the rest of the departments go,” said Dunn. “They need to be highly functioning and highly efficient. We don’t want them to take on a prolonged load with something that will take away from strokes, seizures and traumas.”

The clinic has recently launched a statewide telehealth hotline, which enables people around the state to utilize WMC’s services and to point them to the correct local health provider.

When a person anywhere in the state has coronavirus-like symptoms, they can call the hotline where an RN will triage over the phone based on information given over the phone. The RN will then refer the patient to a video appointment with a provider, or send the patient for a clinic for testing.

“We’ve been able to call EMS from other counties based on information on a call,” said Dunn. “It really is bringing Wyoming together, we’re one medical community,” he said.

“We’re all in this together.”

The WMC telehealth hotline number is 307-233-7288, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day.

The Latest Statistics from the Wyoming Department of Health:

What to do if you are feeling sick: In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department says that people who are feeling sick or exhibiting symptoms should contact their primary physician.

If you do not have a primary care provider, and live in Natrona County, please contact the COVID-19 hotline, operated by the Casper-Natrona County Department of Health. The line is open Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 5:00 pm 577-9892. Hotline services are intended for Natrona County residents and may not be able to provide specific information to persons calling from out of county.

Officials ask that you please do not self-report to the Emergency Room. Persons experiencing problems breathing should call 9-11.

For general inquiries and non-symptom related questions about COVID-19, please contact the Casper-Natrona County Health Department via email: covid@cnchd.org

  • Practice Social Distancing by putting distance between yourself and other people. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home if you’re sick
  • Cover coughs and sneezes. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
  • Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.

A list of area closures attributed to COVID-19 are available here.