Hospital Corner – November, 2020

Hospital Corner – November, 2020

November, like 2020 in general, won’t be missed. That said, the goal for this month’s column is to share as much factual information as possible with you in regard to COVID-19 and its impact on the hospital, community and—most of all—our nursing home.  The numbers will certainly change (likely for the worse) by the time you read this but as of mid-November, here is what you should know:

  • Several nursing home residents are currently positive for coronavirus; some with mild symptoms.
  • Many staff members are positive, most work in nursing home.  A few have symptoms as well and must remain home at least ten days.

What does this mean?  Given the age and general health of our nursing home residents, you can reach your own conclusion about how the disease is affecting their quality of life.  The residents who test negative suffer as well: confined to their rooms, no socialization, little or no physical therapy.  Not much to look forward to besides another day of television, monotony and boredom.

Staff shortages may be less heart-wrenching but no less serious. Nine months into the pandemic, hospital staff here (as they are around the country) are exhausted, physically and emotionally.  No strangers to stress and long hours, COVID has taken a toll on all healthcare workers, one way or another.  Fewer staff means those that remain on the job must do more—and they do, but of course even the strongest among us has a breaking point.

What can be done about this? The message to all has been clear and consistent since March: maintain physical distance from others—wear a mask when you cannot; wash your hands, avoid touching your face, and get tested if you have three or more of the following COVID symptoms:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath/difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

This time of year, many have one or more of these symptoms (from allergies, colds and flu, dust in the air).  Nevertheless, if you have a few of the conditions listed, best to get tested.  Our testing capacity has improved dramatically in past few months so we can usually get you tested within a day of your request; contact your provider’s office.

Why the emphasis on testing? As you may have heard, Mineral County, just like the hospital, has seen a significant spike in cases over the past two weeks.  Contact tracing is underway but, as the saying goes, the horse is out of the barn.  Too late to do anything about current positive cases but we can prevent further spread—within the hospital and the community—if we all follow the basic preventative guidelines. 

You may be thinking, COVID-19 is less than 1% fatal, so why all the fuss?  For the general population as a whole, you are correct—but for the sick, the frail, the elderly, the fatality rate is far higher.  And here’s the part that may get your attention: Mineral County ranks last in the state for public health, based on life expectancy and rates of heart disease, COPD, cancer, diabetes, obesity, etc., which means many of your friends and neighbors are at greater risk of poor outcomes should they contract COVID-19.  To make matters worse, Reno and Carson City hospitals are nearing capacity and accepting fewer transfer patients from rural Nevada hospitals. 

Hero is an overused word these days but it certainly applies to frontline healthcare workers at Mt. Grant General.  Providers, nurses, housekeepers, therapists, kitchen staff and so many others are heroes to me.  Sure, some are well compensated for their hard work but most make entry level pay; they do this work because they care. Let’s all show we care as well by doing what is right—something we can all be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Hugh Qualls, Administrator