Hospital taking overflow patients

By Tammy Keele

CNO Linda Walker reported South Big Horn County Hospital, also known as Three Rivers Health, has been very busy. She attributed it to an influx tied to COVID-19.

Walker reports that because of the rising number of COVID-19 cases, hospital staff are closely adhering to CDC guidelines and Department of Health safety measures. Anyone entering the facility is screened. All staff must wear masks and protective eyewear. Employees are tested weekly for COVID-19. Staff that has tested positive has been sent home immediately and isolated. The nursing home residents are also checked weekly and will continue to be as long as there are positive COVID-19 tests. 

Walker reports Three Rivers is accepting patients from Billings Clinic and St Vincent Healthcare as those facilities are full. “They are just stacked in the ER. They are actually getting buildings outside of their facilities to put patients,” she said. 

By accepting Billings patients, Walker hopes to make room for trauma patients or those that may need additional services. She states other area hospitals, including those in Powell and Lovell, are also taking overflow patients. 

When asked the criteria for accepting patients Walker replied the patients they are taking are “based on the acuity level we are equipped for.” Patients are not selected based on a certain disease but by the level of care that can be provided. Walker went on to say nursing staff are trained and held accountable to provide a higher level of care than ever required before by the facility and can subsequently take patients with various illnesses. 

 In other business, Walker announced the first flu vaccine drive-through clinic was successful. Walker showed the board demo beds they are previewing that hold patients up to 500 pounds. She states the hospital is expecting to see more bariatric patients in the future. 

CFO Susan Novak pointed out during her financial report the budget comparison this year at a net income of $934,000.00 compared to last year’s -$335,000.00 that there is “over a million-dollar swing compared to where we were during the first three months last year. Great news.”  Novak also discussed they will be having a virtual audit and cost report this year due to COVID-19. She reported that although this process is taking longer than normal, they are still two months ahead of where they were last year. September financials were accepted and approved.

CEO Tad Greenfield discussed signage options displaying the new logo.  Greenfield said signs would be updated with the new logo and additional illumination. There will also be signs placed to direct people toward the new entrance.  There are companies bidding on the signage and cost is expected to cost about $70-75,000.00 out of board funds.

Greenfield presented the board with construction documents for the planned surgical suite. Per Greenfield construction would begin in February and take about 16 weeks to complete.  Per the CEO there are many steps in the process including state approval. There would be three bids with a requirement that the selected contractor must have experience with this type of specialized build. The project estimate is approximately 1.8 million with a 10% deviation for variable expenses like cabinetry, etc. Greenfield advised funds are expected to be obtained through CARES funding and use of CARES funding will have timelines that must be met. At the end of his presentation Greenfield requested approval from the board to proceed with the surgical suite project. The board voted and approved the construction. 

Human Services Director Tamara Sawyer informed the board that in preparation for the surgical suite and stress echo areas, staff has been preparing and moving offices into a planned administrative suite on the east side of the building.  Sawyer reported old patient rooms in that area are being repurposed into office space that would allow administration, the infection control and utilization nurses, the emergency room coordinator and billing to be in one general area. This move will also free up the what will become the stress echo area next to the ER, currently occupied by billing. 

The regular meeting was adjourned and the board went into executive session 

The board meets the third Wednesday of the month; however, due to the holidays the next scheduled meeting will be moved to Nov. 18 at 5:30 p.m. and the December meeting will be canceled