Last Tuesday, I had the opportunity to visit with Dr. Paul Beaupré, CEO of St. John’s Health in Jackson. Teton County has been a hot spot for the COVID-19 pandemic in Wyoming with 64 laboratory confirmed cases. Dr. Beaupré noted that the number of cases in Teton County is likely far more than we know because of the testing shortage. The significant number of cases is likely the result of the high number of international travelers who visit and people with second homes in Jackson who traveled back to the community to escape other hot spots in the country.
News recently broke that a Teton County man died after contracting the virus, marking the first death in the community. A sobering reminder of the severity of this pandemic.
Below are some of the highlights from my conversation with Dr. Beaupré:
- St. John’s telehealth system is working really well for patients: St. John’s efforts have been led by Jackson’s Dr. Lisa Finkelstein. When Dr. FInkelstein was President of the Wyoming Medical Society, she worked with other physician leaders from around the state to advocate for advances in telemedicine for Wyoming communities. Since coronavirus hit Teton County, St. John’s has been seeing an average of 100 patients each day remotely via telehealth. It is being used to help evaluate for COVID-19 and also to connect patients with specialists such as cardiologists.
- Re-opening essential services: St. John’s is developing plans to bring hospital and clinic services back on line. This will be done with patient and staff safety as the top priority. Dr. Beaupre is concerned that many patients are neglecting their medical needs right now. This is possibly putting their health at risk. The economic recovery of the Teton region also relies on the hospital and clinics returning to a fuller range of health and medical services. Like many Wyoming hospitals, SJH is the largest year-round community employer and a major economic driver. Without the revenue from the full menu of services it provides, St. John’s is losing about $6 million a month. Frontier Rural hospitals are in a tough spot right now and need relief immediately. (Please note, this is an issue Senator John Barrasso is working diligently on right now.)
- Testing is key: St. John’s has new COVID-19 testing machines, but there is a big shortage of testing kits. There is a lot being done to make sure that hospitals can safely reintroduce essential services, but testing is key. Dr. Beaupre is hopeful more rapid PCR testing will soon be available. Dr. Beaupre is working on a plan to be able to check COVID-19 status of all patients before their scheduled surgeries.
- Manufacturing PPEs in Wyoming: Dr. Beaupre likes the idea of having a manufacturing plant in Wyoming to produce our own personal protective equipment (PPE) for our hospitals. The products are needed, plus it would create additional jobs in Wyoming. What’s more, it would make Wyoming less reliant on foreign suppliers like China.
St. John’s Health has some terrific online resources that can not only answer questions for Teton County residents, but people throughout the state. It includes self-isolation guidelines, real time information from the CDC, tips on making and cleaning masks, and other important information on keeping you and your loved ones safe. Click here for more.
In addition, like communities all across Wyoming, residents of Teton County have stepped up in an extraordinary way to help. St. John’s has already received over 2,000 masks and the Jackson Hole Community Mask Project is working to collect more. St. John’s Living Center is also accepting cards, pictures and letters for residents who have been unable to have visitors during this time. The hospital is also grateful for ‘Quarantine Cuisine’ which delivers meals and groceries to individuals in mandatory or self-imposed quarantine. Learn more here.
I am sending my thoughts and prayers to everyone on the front lines helping to keep us safe during this pandemic.
Take care my friends,
PS – Team Lummis was proud to work with The Wort Hotel to deliver dinner to hospital staff last week. A special thanks to Work Hotel General Manager Jim Waldrop and Food & Beverage Director Jordan Holcomb for making it happen!