Weiser Memorial Hospital avoids pandemic, has not admitted a patient with coronavirus

Steve Lyon

Weiser Memorial Hospital has not admitted a patient with confirmed coronavirus more than five weeks after the first case appeared in Idaho.
 As of late last week, the Weiser hospital and clinics tested 70 people and 69 came back negative for the virus.  
 The one case of coronavirus that state health officials reported in Washington County, a woman in her 70s who was seen at a local clinic, did not require hospitalization.
 “I think our ruralness helps us to some degree,” CEO Steve Hale said.
 The hospital’s medical staff continues to follow the guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and public health agencies when it comes to who gets tested for the coronavirus.  
 Health care workers or patients that need to be admitted to the hospital based on a doctor’s order are at the top of the list for testing.
 “We’re not testing people just because their employer told them to get tested,” Hale said.
 The hospital collects the sample and sends it out. Test results from both private and the state laboratories have a two to three day turnaround.
 In the event the hospital needs to admit a patient showing symptoms of coronavirus, that person would be put in an isolation room.
 If someone was critically ill with coronavirus and needed to be put on a ventilator, they would be transferred to a larger health care facility for longer-term care.
 With a triage tent in the parking lot, the hospital remains ready for any influx of possible coronavirus patients. If the number of people with symptoms became significant, all testing for the virus would take place outside of the hospital in the tent before any admissions.
 Hale said the heightened precautions at the hospital, which also includes screening all visitors and employees at the ER door, will stay in place until the hospital is notified to “stand down” by the governor, the CDC or public health agencies.
 “We can handle, at least in the short-term, anything that comes to us,” Hale said.
 The hospital has suspended elective surgery and procedures during the coronavirus crisis. The hospital is not doing any knee or hip surgeries or routine colonoscopies. As a result, there will be some financial impact to the hospital from the loss of business.
 If patients could be tested for coronavirus and the results were available in an hour and were negative, there could be the possibility of resuming elective surgery at the hospital, Hale said.
 Right now, there is no rapid testing that can do that, and if there were tests, they would likely go to coronavirus hot spots and not a rural location like Weiser, Hale said.
 There are other considerations to be addressed prior to allowing elective surgery during the coronavirus pandemic.
 If the hospital resumed elective surgeries and used up all the personal protective equipment, that could put employees at risk if an actual coronavirus case arrived at the hospital, Hale said.

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18 E. Idaho St.
Weiser, ID 83672
PH: (208) 549-1717
FAX: (208) 549-1718

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