Covid, Nurses and Hospital capacity

Hospitals struggle with rising Covid numbers and keeping hospitals sufficiently staffed
Published: Sep. 2, 2021 at 7:16 PM CDT
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - Whether you believe in COVID-19 or not, the numbers in Wyoming continue to rise.

As a result, the people who care for us are burning out, are in higher demand and are less available across the country. Making for a scary scenario as we head into flu season.

The Cheyenne Regional Medical Center is seeing a significant rise in COVID-19 cases entering the hospital.

Last week there were 20 COVID-19 patients; this Thursday, there are 43, with 12 in intensive care and 8 on ventilators.

Patients are ranging from 18 to 89 years old; at least 80 percent are unvaccinated.

One of the challenges CRMC faces is meeting the needs of the COVID-19 patients while still tending to other Non-Covid-19 emergencies.

“We had 10 patients boarding in our emergency room. Which means they are there waiting for a room to open up, that we don't have available just yet. And we still have 20 plus patients in the waiting room waiting to be seen,” said Tim Thornell, President and CEO of CRMC.

Critics say the hospital remodeling is limiting the bed capacity, saying that doing so in the middle of a pandemic is poor planning. But the hospital says it’s not about the rooms; the remodel has been in the works for several years. It’s about staffing.

“Right now most of our limitation about being able to accommodate more patients really has to do with staffing, not the physical space limitation. We are able to find other rooms and put into place other avenues to have patients physically in our facilities,” said Thornell.

That staff shortage means CRMC is at capacity; the same is happening to other hospitals across the nation.

In the meantime, CRMC has called in temporary nurses to fill the gap, but at a premium.

Typically during a non-pandemic year, CRMC calls in 10 traveling nurses, but right now, they have more than 40.

“We’re seeing such a surge of patients that they are working additional shifts, so we have demanded that they work over time shifts, to help us be able to cover and care for the patients that are in our organization,” said Tracy Garcia, Chief Nursing Officer and Vice President of Clinical Services at CRMC.

But does the high number of cases warrant another mask mandate or shutdown, and how high does that number need to be?

“From a hospitalization perspective we are at our limit, on a daily basis we are at or approaching our limit, so now is the time for the community to act. To do their part in wearing masks and getting vaccinated,” said Thornell.

Medical professionals are asking people to take COVID-19 seriously.

“We absolutely experience COVID-19 related deaths and we experience that on a routine weekly basis. It’s so disheartening to see that happen right in front of us when we know we have some options that can deter that,” said Thornell.

With the limited number of nurses and medical staff available, it may be a matter of time until there is no one left to help.

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