Last Friday, April 10, I had the opportunity to visit with leadership from the SageWest Health Care in Lander. I spoke with Chief Executive Officer John Ferrelli, Chief of Staff Mel Meyer, MD, Chief Nursing Officer Kathie Hirsch-Lanute and Director of Quality Management Leah Holman. Josh Hopson with LifePoint Health and the President of the Wyoming Hospital Association Eric Boley also joined us.
While the threat still remains high, I am happy to report there is seemingly good news coming out of Lander. The community that was home to the largest cluster of COVID-19 patients in Wyoming seems to be turning a corner, albeit slowly. As of Friday, there were nine COVID-19 positive patients in SageWest Lander, down from the high of 12. There were zero patients in SageWest Riverton. In Fremont County, approximately 500 people are self-quarantining.
As you could imagine, SageWest Health Care is not accustomed to dealing with this level of care on a regular basis, but Chief of Staff Mel Meyer said they are focused on high acuity and teleintensive care with the help of the hospital in Casper. There have been no fatalities in Fremont County at this point. Leadership at the hospital said it is “miraculous” how well people are doing, given the circumstances.
A few other highlights from my conversation:
- Healthcare Services on the Reservation: The Fremont County Health Director is communicating multiple times a day with the tribes. Both tribes just received new rapid testing equipment.
- Preparedness: In the case of a surge in Fremont County, the medical community is prepared. They have more than 100 beds and adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to serve the county. They also have 14 nurses in other areas of the hospital that they can redeploy as necessary.
- Testing & Resources: According to SageWest Health Care officials, the state lab is turning around test results in 24-36 hours. The state also just received 15 Real Time PCR, rapid testing equipment developed by Abbott.
- Community Support: The Fremont County community has provided an overwhelming amount of support to the hospitals, making gowns and masks and providing food for staff. They also have volunteers and retired medical professionals in the community coming in to help with bedside care. You can read more about the incredible community support here.
Leaders from SageWest Health Care reiterated how crucial it is for all of us to stay the course and continue to follow the protocols of handwashing, social distancing, and staying at home as much as you can. They are working and helping to ‘flatten the curve.’
To the healthcare heroes on the front lines in Lander and across the Cowboy State, I say thank you and God Bless.
Team Lummis was happy to be able to provide a meal for staff at SageWest Health Care in Lander this weekend. A special thanks to the staff at The Oxbow Restaurant for making it happen and for continuing to serve the public!