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Campbell County Health Adds New Beds, Emphasizes Staffing Concerns

Wyoming Department of Health

Campbell County Health (CCH) has added a new unit to handle the increase in patients needing to be hospitalized.

The unit will have 10 additional beds for non-COVID patients and the hospital is working on establishing another additional unit to handle the needs caused by continually increasing COVID-19 hospitalizations.

"That's [the number of additional in-patient beds] kind of getting close to almost double our normal capacity," Chief Nursing Officer Misty Robertson said.

Robertson said because of the additional patients they are taking on the most pressing concern is the stress this is putting on staffing numbers. This can be caused from staff either contracting COVID-19 or having to quarantine from exposures. Campbell County Health is already receiving staffing help from the Wyoming National Guard, traveling nurses and a federal team Gov. Mark Gordon sent.

"We consider it as a crisis right now," she said.

Robertson said that staffing is having effects on departments not directly involved in patient care, like the pharmacy, the lab, and housekeeping.

"I know that sometimes people think that COVID is maybe not true, but we're seeing patients come in needing our help, and they're sick. And we're seeing that. That's really happening," she said.

That was emphasized last week when several people showed up to a special Campbell County commissioners meeting saying that the state's most recent health orders, including the mask mandate, are unconstitutional.

At the meeting, Commissioner Del Shelstad relayed a message to the commissioners he'd received from a constituent earlier in the week.

"I got a call the day before yesterday from a nurse that worked in the COVID unit of our hospital that said that about half of those people don't even need to be hospitalized," he said at the meeting. "I don't know if that's true or not but it concerns me. Anytime you put a monetary value on somebody being in the hospital, or somebody dying from a pandemic, what do you think's going to happen? It's common sense. You're going to start seeing false numbers of those that are sick. False numbers of those that are hospitalized, false numbers of those that are dead."

Robertson said, "it's hard to believe a nurse would make those comments," and Shelstad's statement is not an accurate assessment of what's going on at the hospital.

She clarified it's not up to nurses to determine if a patient is hospitalized.

"We feel a little bit like that's an unfortunate way to represent the exceptional care that we've been providing [and] what we've been going through to provide care for our community that they would say that," said Robertson. "We feel undermined as nurses. I'm disappointed in that comment."

For Robertson, the situation is quite the opposite. Despite numbers of COVID-19 cases holding steady or lowering, they are seeing more people admitted to the hospital with coronavirus- related complications.

"We're kind of on track for more, even double admissions, at the rate we're going if that continues in December, even more than November," she said. "So we haven't seen any relief. I've actually seen a higher percent of patients that are ill enough to be admitted, that are positive and I can't tell you why," she said.

She's asking the community to help keep each other safe and follow health orders and safety precautions to lessen the impact on the hospital.

As of Sunday Dec. 13, Campbell County Health has 24 COVID-positive patients at the hospital, pushing the hospital to the max. The entire medical-surgical unit is serving as the COVID unit with 22 beds.

There have been 20 coronavirus-related deaths in the county.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Catherine Wheeler, at cwheel11@uwyo.edu.

Catherine Wheeler comes to Wyoming from Kansas City, Missouri. She has worked at public media stations in Missouri and on the Vox podcast "Today, Explained." Catherine graduated from Fort Lewis College with a BA in English. She recently received her master in journalism from the University of Missouri. Catherine enjoys cooking, looming, reading and the outdoors.
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