Campbell County Health has taken a series of steps toward increasing its COVID-19 precautions for its patients and employees as the number of new infections, hospitalizations and deaths have risen in recent weeks.
On Thursday, CCH announced on its website that its departments and clinics are withdrawing from the Campbell County Chamber of Commerce Mega Mixer on Thursday night because of the “current COVID-19 crisis that our community is facing. We need to make sure we have enough people to take care of you when you need medical care," it said.
In light of a staffing shortage, CCH is reaching out to retired nurses, school nurses and other local medical providers, including Campbell County Public Health.
Nurses have been contacted but none have been brought in yet, said Karen Clarke, CCH spokesperson. The organization is reaching out to nurses from various ambulatory surgery centers in town and retired nurses who still have a Wyoming license.
Public Health was contacted to lend a hand with the drive-up testing, staffing resources and supplies, Clarke said.
On Monday, CCH had 13 COVID-19 patients in its hospital, 10 of whom were housed in the medical/surgical area, with the other three in the ICU.
Ten of those 13 patients were not vaccinated for COVID-19, according to its website. Two of the others had been vaccinated and one received one of the two shots needed for full immunity.
Here’s what else CCH is doing to prepare for the rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations:
- The Emergency Department expanded its COVID-19 waiting area and added two more treatment rooms.
- Five more beds will be added to the hospital’s medical/surgical unit.
- Another ambulance crew has been put on call.
- The hospital is adding a drive-up COVID-19 testing station.
- Complex and Internal Medicine is running a monoclonal antibody infusion program. That treatment can mitigate a patient’s symptoms and reduce the risk of severe COVID-19 disease and hospitalization.
The drive-thru testing is expected to begin next week. Receiving test results could take anywhere from four to 24 hours, Clarke said.
For the past two weeks, an average of 30 CCH employees have missed work because they were positive for COVID-19 or other illness, Clarke said.
The shortage in staff is affecting the organization’s ability to house both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients. There are not enough necessary medical personnel to open up additional beds for patients regardless of whether they have COVID-19, the hospital said.
“We can’t even get contract nurses to come in right now,” said CCH Chief Financial Officer Mary Lou Tate at Monday’s finance committee meeting.
Naomi Niemitalo, CCH vice president of human resources, said that traveling nurses are being paid $210 to $250 per hour nationally, which is even higher than the rates ran during the COVID surge last fall.
Tate said the hospital had a 29.1% positivity rate among its COVID-19 tests run in August, indicating a significant increase from recent summer months.
CCH recommends its employees and the public get a COVID-19 vaccine, which remains free, safe and available in the community.
Public Health offers weekly vaccine clinics by appointment, but the shots also are available at Walgreens, Smith’s, Albertsons and Walmart.