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YRMC-Prescott at 111% capacity; hospital strives to answer COVID-19 demand, other care needs

Yavapai Regional Medical Center is currently at 111% capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Prescott Daily Courier file photo

Yavapai Regional Medical Center is currently at 111% capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Prescott Daily Courier file photo

PRESCOTT — The continuing rise of COVID-19 cases in the quad-city area is prompting an overload on hospitals all over the state and nation, and Yavapai County is no exception.

On Friday, Dec. 18, Dignity Health-Yavapai Regional Medical Center was at 111% capacity on the West Campus in Prescott and 96% capacity on the East Campus in Prescott Valley, with 15 extra beds added to the West Campus and 10 extra beds added to the East Campus. The hospital is licensed for 133 beds on the West Campus and 50 on the East Campus.

As of Friday, YRMC was treating 73 COVID-19 cases on the West Campus and 27 on the East Campus; the VA is treating 10 on its Prescott campus. The majority of the patients are suffering from respiratory distress, requiring oxygen treatment, with a few severe enough to require ventilators, said Ken Boush, YRMC’s communications and marketing director.

COVID-19 patients require specialized ventilation units, and the hospital has so far converted space into four such units, with conversations happening about converting an entire floor to this care, he said.

The hospital, too, is considering space for those awaiting discharge, he said.

To accommodate what leaders said is a “significant” spike in capacity over the norm at what is an always busy community hospital – the largest in-patient and out-patient medical and surgical facility in western Yavapai County – the hospital has imposed renewed restrictions on both in-patient and out-patient surgical procedures. The campuses are also limiting visitors and all must wear a hospital-provided mask.

As of Monday, Dec. 21, YRMC will limit surgeries to those required for acute emergencies, or medical necessity, Boush said, adding that this “difficult decision” is intended to accommodate the COVID-19 demand expected to continue into the New Year.

Medical imaging and other non-hospital-based services will continue as scheduled, Chief Operating Officer Keith Nichols stated in a news release.

“We are taking extra precautions for the safety of our patients and staff at our off-campus facilities,” Nichols said. “We are increasing the time between patient appointments to allow for deep cleaning and to minimize contact in our lobbies and registration areas.”

To meet these profound challenges, the hospital is adjusting staffing ratios and assignments from one department to another, Boush said. The hospital, too, has welcomed traveling medical practitioners to assist.

In his 10 years at the hospital, Boush said he has never seen one virus, or illness of any kind, stretch the hospital’s bed space and staffing resources so much.

REMOTE CARE

Beyond the demand for in-patient care at the hospital, Boush said there are additional COVID-19 positive patients who are receiving care through a new, 24-hour remote medical monitoring and care delivery system. The service enables home care patients to be delivered needed medications and oxygen supplies. As they are monitored via cellphones, computers, or a landline telephone, the hospital’s medical staff can assess progress, and if symptoms worsen they can be transferred back to the hospital, he said.

This multi-disciplinary program launched a few weeks ago is being overseen by Dr. Ronael Eckman, Boush said.

Since Dec. 4, Boush said 172 people have been referred to this particular program, the majority through the Emergency Department at the two campuses. At this time, there are 148 patients receiving this care.

Without this program, Boush said YRMC’s hospitalizations would likely be even higher at a time when extra bed space at other hospitals is just as limited.

CONTINUED CARE

In detailing the hospital’s capacity at this time, Boush reiterated that as the area’s main medical provider they are still accepting people with other conditions, or experiencing an emergency care need.

“We can’t have people not receiving the care they need, especially in emergency situations,” Boush said.

YRMC has long been trusted to provide the highest caliber of care to all people who need medical attention, he said. No one should fear that because of the COVID-19 demand that their health is any less important. If someone breaks a hip, experiences chest pain or stroke symptoms, Boush said he wants them to call 9-1-1 without hesitation.

All community residents need to be assured that “our teams will do everything they can for them. They need to have that confidence … If the situation is that they need a higher level of care, then we’ll work with our hospital partners to make that happen.”

One of the most significant challenges in this area related to COVID-19 is that about one-half of the population falls into the most vulnerable category, with this virus most virulent in older adults and those with other underlying health complications, be it heart ailments, diabetes or other such illnesses, Boush said.

“We deal with sick patients … we’re used to it,” Boush said.

This pandemic, though, is a medical game-changer.

“Our caregivers and support teams at Yavapai Regional Medical Center and Yavapai Regional Medical Group continue to demonstrate great courage and dedication to serve our community,” Nichols concluded. “We can really use the community’s support during this challenging time.

“Please wear a mask, wash your hands, and practice social distancing.”

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