Memorial Hospital of Carbon County Health Center

The Memorial Hospital of Carbon County Health Center in Saratoga is offering COVID-19 vaccine booster shots because of its remote location.

It’s no secret that many hospitals across Wyoming and the nation have been challenged throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hospital staffs have had to work long and hard to keep up with swells and surges of COVID-19 positive patients. This includes Memorial Hospital of Carbon County.

“How we operate has definitely changed. We have had to implement new protocols and procedures,” said hospital spokeswoman Stephanie Hinkle about the effect of the pandemic on the local hospital’s operations.

With a continuing wave of delta variant impacting areas throughout the country, Hinkle said that hospital staff has been prepared from their experience during the beginning of the pandemic.

“Compared to the beginning of the pandemic, we have continued to learn,” she said. “We have been much more prepared when the delta variant hit compared to where we were when it all began.

“With the delta variant, we have continued to see more admits and the death rate has climbed. We are even seeing more young patients with the variant.”

The hospital releases new COVID-19 updates every 14 days. As of Nov. 9, there were seven COVID-19 positive patients at Memorial Hospital. All seven had not been vaccinated.

According to the update, there had been 196 Carbon County cases as of Nov. 9. Of those, 64 of them are active and 130 recovered. There also have been 16 cases COVID in youth younger than 18.

There have been 47 Carbon County deaths attributed to COVID-19 since Feb. 2020.

As the pandemic continues, there have been modifications that have had to be made to properly care for the number of COVID-19 patients.

“We have had to modify other areas of the hospital to accommodate our COVID-19 patients,” Hinkle said. “For example, we had to use our med-surg unit for a bit to treat them. We have also added negative pressure to the entire hospital.

“Through the pandemic, there are some of the processes and the infrastructure we have implemented that we will continue to use once it’s over.”

Memorial Hospital of Carbon County quickly began offering the COVID-19 vaccine once it became available, Hinkle said.

“When the vaccine first started being offered, we offered several vaccine clinics. We wanted to make sure we could help take some of the pressure off of our family clinics.

“Right now, we are not offering the boosters or third doses of the vaccine. Public health is offering them, though.”

Hinkle said the hospital has one clinic offering boosters due to extenuating circumstances.

“However, the one exception is that our Saratoga clinic is offering the vaccinations because of their remote location,” she said.

Hinkle also said the hospital began providing the monoclonal antibody therapy for patients at a high risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19 in September.

“It has been so beneficial for our patients,” she said.

According to a press release from the hospital, the treatment “can significantly reduce the risk of progressing to severe COVID-19 disease and needing hospitalization. The treatment can also shorten the duration of COVID-19 symptoms.

“The infusion of monoclonal antibodies pairs with the body’s immune system and natural defense mechanisms to target the COVID-19 virus and prevent it from entering human cells. In addition, the antibody proteins cause the virus to be broken down by the immune system and then cleared from the body.”

Infusions can only be scheduled for patients through an order from a physician. Patients also have to meet certain criteria to be eligible to receive an infusion.

They have to have a positive COVID-19 test and/or been exposed, be at least 12 years old, weigh more than 88 pounds, be 10 days or more from the onset of the virus and be at a high risk of becoming severely ill.

The criteria for a patient at a higher risk includes having a body mass index over 25 kilograms, being 65 years or older or being pregnant.

It also includes patients with chronic kidney disease, diabetes, immunosuppressive disease, cardiovascular disease, sickle cell, chronic lung disease, congenital or acquired heart disease, neurodevelopmental disorders, asthma, reactive airway or other chronic respiratory diseases.

Throughout the pandemic, Hinkle said the hospital and staff have had to navigate uncharted health care waters and learn as they go.

“I’d say that we have just continued to adapt through this process. Small, rural hospitals have definitely seen and felt more of an impact during the pandemic,” she said. “It’s been a learning curve since Day One.”

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