CASPER, Wyo. — Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County (MHSC) announced on Monday that it is cancelling elective surgeries until further notice due to “an overwhelming influx of COVID-19 positive patients.”
The Wyoming Department of Health reports that the MHSC had 9 COVID-19 patients on Monday and no unoccupied intensive care unit beds.
The hospital also announced that it has no rapid COVID-19 tests to offer because supplies are short nationwide due to a surge in COVID-19 cases.
“We are at a critical juncture in Sweetwater County,” MHSC Public Information Officer Deb Sutton said. “The hospital is treating and admitting more and more COVID-19 cases every day. There has been an incredible surge in cases nationwide. We are not an exception. This comes at a time when MHSC, like other U.S. hospitals, is facing a nursing shortage as well as limited access to bed availability in regional centers for higher levels of care.”
MHSC Chief Medical Officer Melinda Poyer said that the lack of available beds in other hospitals combined with the “acuity of the patients” led to the hospital’s decision to cancel elective surgeries.
“It is a day-by-day, moment-to-moment situation based on bed availability both here and in a four-state area,” Poyer said. “Complicating the issue is the lack of ICU bed space available in regional health centers offering higher levels of care. ICUs in our region are frequently overcapacity. This fluctuates daily.”
Poyer said that the problem becomes particularly serious when MHSC needs to transfer patients that have had acute heart attacks, strokes, head injuries and other major trauma to other hospitals.
MHSC said that its Emergency Incident Commend met over the weekend and reviewed its pandemic plan.
“In the last few days, almost everyone who tests positive in the emergency room [is] unvaccinated,” MHSC Emergency Medical Director Dr. Phillip Najm said. “The sickest people presenting to the ER with COVID-19 are unvaccinated.”
The ICU beds were all full on Sunday as well. The MHSC has nine ICU beds. The hospital says that about 98% of its COVID-19 patients have not been fully vaccinated.
General Surgeon Dr. Brianne Crofts encouraged people to consider getting vaccinated.
“By getting vaccinated, you are helping the healthcare system and your community,” she said. “Please help us by getting vaccinated so we can take care of everyone, regardless of their medical emergency. This current crisis is preventable.”
The hospital said that one physician recently reached out to 31 other hospitals across four states in an effort to place a critical patient. The hospital has been seeing similar requests from other hospitals.
“We had a hospital in Texas calling us for beds,” MHSC Emergency Services Director Kim White said. “How many hospitals are there between here and Texas must they have called before they got to Sweetwater Memorial?”
The MHSC said that the situation is also cause for concern when it comes to pediatric patients coming to the emergency room with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). The MHSC says that healthcare providers in the area are seeing cases of RSV this year earlier than in the past.
“Unlike last year, influenza also is expected to increase along with COVID-19 as a result of the lack of mask wearing and reluctance to socially distance,” the MHSC said.
While the MHSC is not able to currently offer rapid COVID tests, people have some other options:
Swab: Anyone in need of a COVID-19 swab should instead go to the drive-thru swabbing station at the hospital’s main entrance at 1200 College Drive. The station is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. To speed up processing, please make an appointment at curative.com. There still may be a waiting line. However, with much of your information already in the system, it will speed up the process. For more on this and COVID-19 vaccine availability, go to sweetwatermemorial.com and click on Coronavirus Update.MHSC
The MHSC shared the following vaccine information:
Vaccine: Everyone 12 and older can get a COVID-19 vaccine during the hospital’s COVID-19 vaccine drive-thru offered from 3-5 p.m. every Wednesday at the same place the swab station operates.MHSC
The Wyoming Department of Health provides COVID-19 case, variant, death, testing, hospital and vaccine data online. The department also shares information about how the data can be interpreted. COVID-19 safety recommendations are available from the CDC.