MCH&HS CEO: Inpatient hospitalization rate of symptomatic patients alarming

Blair hospital staff feeling strain as COVID-19 cases rise

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As numbers of those infected with the COVID-19 rises across the country, Washington County is also seeing hospitalizations rise.

Memorial Community Hospital and Health System (MCH&HS) is trying to manage the numbers, according to Manny Banner, president and CEO.

"I want to take this time again to urge the residents of our service area to continue to practice frequent handwashing, social distancing and masking now more than ever," she said. "We have certainly seen a sharp rise in patients that have positive COVID-19 tests, however, the inpatient hospitalization rate of symptomatic patients is even more alarming. We need to find a way to stop transmission and at this point in time this is only possible by observing this simple set of rules."

Staffing is a concern during this pandemic, Banner said.

"MCH&HS is able to accept a limited number of COVID-19 patients based on staffing. We have additional beds in-house that are currently not staffed as the number of nursing staff is based on our regular number of patients," Banner said. "We have a backup plan that will allow us to utilize backup and temporary nurses, as well as nurses that are currently working in a different capacity within the organization."

Banner said many other facilities are in crisis mode as it relates to staffing, and temporary staff and additional staff are not always available.

"We have added temporary nursing staff and are reassigning other staff as available," she said. "We will continue to balance the staffing of the inpatient area with ancillary departments in order to maintain robust hospital operations."

At the beginning of the pandemic, the hospital set up a mobile hospital to ensure it was in working order. Banner said it could be utilized for backup beds.

"But more likely to allow us to perform additional services related to COVID-19 in that space as needed," she said.

Elective surgeries that required an overnight stay have been limited for several weeks already to preserve staffed bed capacity, but more limits are in place.

"We are also limiting outpatient elective surgeries in order to re-direct the surgery department staff to our inpatient areas," Banner said. "There might be a need to stop all surgeries in order to preserve staffing."

In a letter to the editor in Tuesday's Pilot-Tribune, Banner addressed the concerns of the facility.

"We have a loyal and dedicated team of men and women working here, but for a variety of reasons, they are getting taxed, both mentally and physically," she said. "Working in full personal protective equipment is not easy and can be extremely draining for our health care workers, however, it is necessary to protect their own health so that they can continue to care for our patients."

Banner said as long as the hospital has bed availability they will keep patients that are appropriate for care there.

"As always, patients that are in need of a higher level of care are transferred," she said. "Our ER physicians are seeing increasing difficulty in finding facilities that are accepting patients as this COVID-19 pandemic continues to see a steady increase in patient numbers."

Banner said she urges community members that feel sick to make the decision to get tested or voluntarily self-isolate until they have the assurance that they are not COVID-19 positive.

"As a reminder, MCH&HS is offering weekly testing through TestNebraska at the Blair Recycling Center on Wednesdays from 4-5 p.m.

"Additionally, I am urging patients that are having mild symptoms that are not of an emergency nature to utilize clinics rather than going to the emergency room," she said. "This allows our emergency room staff to care for those patients that have emergent health conditions."  

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