August 30, 2021 — Press Release
Elective surgeries at Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County are canceled until further notice as a result of an overwhelming influx of COVID-19 positive patients. In addition, the hospital, its clinics, and the emergency room have no rapid COVID-19 tests to offer. The tests are in short supply nationwide as a result of the increase in cases.
“We are at a critical juncture in Sweetwater County,” said Deb Sutton, MHSC Public Information Officer. “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.”
A Preventable Surge
“We are at the very unfortunate point where the acuity of the patients combined with a lack of available beds in other facilities has caused us to make the difficult decision to cancel all elective surgeries,” said MHSC Chief Medical Officer Melinda Poyer. “Emergencies must take priority.
“It is a day-by-day, moment-to-moment situation based on bed availability both here and in a four-state area,” she 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.”
It becomes a serious problem when MHSC needs to transfer a patient who has had an acute heart attack, a stroke, a head injury, or some other major trauma, Poyer explained.
Emergency MHSC Incident Command meetings over the weekend painted an alarming picture, Sutton said. The IC team has reviewed the pandemic plan it has in place should the hospital need more inpatient bed space, in the ICU or otherwise.
“In the last few days, almost everyone who tests positive in the emergency room are unvaccinated,” said Dr. Phillip Najm, MHSC Emergency Medical Director with the University of Utah Health. “The sickest people presenting to the ER with COVID-19 are unvaccinated.”
“The nine ICU beds MHSC has available were all full as of Sunday night,” Deb Sutton, MHSC Public Information Officer.
MHSC is in step with much of the nation, with about 98 percent of inpatients unvaccinated and suffering from COVID-19.
General Surgeon Dr. Brianne Crofts said many of the severe COVID-19 cases and deaths seen in recent days are largely preventable. The difference between last year and this year is there is now a vaccine available.
“However, the healthcare providers will continue to fight the battle against all medical emergencies,” she said. “By getting vaccinated, you are helping the healthcare system and your community. Please help us by getting vaccinated, so we can take care of everyone, regardless of their medical emergency. This current crisis is preventable.”
A decrease in COVID-19 cases would dramatically help reduce the lack of bed availability for higher acuity patients many hospitals now face.
One MHSC ER physician recently reached out to 31 hospitals in a four-state area in an effort to place a critical patient.
MHSC also is getting calls from other hospitals inquiring about its bed availability, said Emergency Services Director Kim White, the hospital’s incident commander. “We had a hospital in Texas calling us for beds,” White said. “How many hospitals are there between here and Texas must they have called before they got to Sweetwater Memorial?”
The situation also raises concern when pediatric patients are presenting in the emergency room with a respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which area healthcare providers are seeing earlier this year than they have 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.
“Please understand, those who are vaccinated can still become sick with this virus and its delta variant,” Sutton said. “However, they are at a much lower risk of being hospitalized or dying. Staying healthy enough to not become an inpatient is the immediate goal here.”
Rapid COVID-19 tests
Rapid tests – those offering results in about 45 minutes – are not currently available at MHSC’s Emergency Room and Sweetwater Walk-In Clinic as a result of the marked surge in cases communitywide.
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 6 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.
Vaccine: Everyone 12 and older can get a COVID-19 vaccine during the hospital’s COVID-19 vaccine drive-thru offered from 3-6 p.m. every Tuesday and Wednesday at the same place the swab station operates.
“The doctors, nurses, therapists, techs, and staff in every department are exhausted. The worker shortage has affected most departments in the hospital. Many are working extra shifts,” Sutton said. “Please get vaccinated. Wash your hands often. Wear a mask. Maintain a social distance of six feet or more.”