Ivinson Memorial Hospital is staying busy as it continues normal operations and deals with COVID-19 concerns and testing for the Albany County community.
While IMH workers perform the swab test on patients, the test itself must be processed at the Wyoming Department of Health in Cheyenne.
The Wyoming Department of Health Laboratory is the only one in Wyoming that has the capabilities to make a determination on COVID-19 test results, meaning the lab is completing tests from hospitals across the state.
This process takes 2-4 days since IMH must send the test swab to Cheyenne, then wait for completion. As soon as the state laboratory gets the test results, the provider who ordered the test will receive a call as well as a written report.
Aside from this, IMH, along with most hospitals in the United States, is concerned with preserving supplies.
“It takes two swabs anytime that we test somebody. So, if we test somebody for COVID we are also collecting a sample to test for influenza A and B, and potentially a respiratory panel, and we use one swab for that, and then we send the second swab to the Wyoming Department of Health,” IMH Chief Nursing Officer Nicole Rooney said.
In addition to needing two swabs for every test, Rooney said the health care workers must also use personal protective equipment, or PPE.
IMH follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for PPE use, which means that to test for COVID-19, healthcare workers must use a gown, gloves, eye protection and an N-95 mask or powered air purifying respirator.
“We’re really following the Wyoming Department of Health guidelines for highest priority for testing,” Rooney said.
She said the highest priority groups include health care workers, hospitalized patients, patients who live in a communal setting and patients who have underlying diseases that give them an immunocompromised status.
Those guidelines are what IMH providers are using to determine if they should order a COVID-19 test for a patient.
During a press conference Wednesday, Wyoming Department of Health Director Mike Ceballos said Wyoming, as is the case nationally, still has limited capacity for testing.
“We cannot test every case,” he said. “We’re following (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines to make sure we’re doing this appropriately. It’s important to remember that these kits and tests will be a challenge — we don’t have all that we need. We’re going to make sure those tests can be performed as quickly as possible for patients who need them. The Department of Health has set up priorities that your health care providers have and we’ll be using those on an ongoing basis.”
Additional sample collection kits developed by the Wyoming Department of Health will be distributed to counties later this week, increasing testing capabilities, according to a news release from Gov. Mark Gordon.
Stitches Acute Care is also collecting COVID-19 tests but is basing the determination to test on symptoms rather than individuals who fall into a certain category.
If Stitches patients have an active fever, cough and respiratory issues, the provider will start with a flu test, then determine if a COVID-19 test is appropriate.
All testing at Stitches is done outside the patient’s car to avoid spreading the virus inside the facilities.
Like Stitches, Grand Ave Urgent Care decides to perform COVID-19 tests on a symptomatic basis.
“We’re working hard to partner with all of the providers in our community,” Rooney said. The healthcare providers in Laramie have been having weekly meetings to determine how to go forward in dealing with COVID-19.
IMH has a nurse triage line that is fully staffed Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Registered nurses on the line are available to answer COVID-19 questions and give recommendations.
“I would say a large majority of the patients who are calling have definitely asked if it would be possible to get a test or they may have had a provider in another community who said, based on their history and their exposure to somebody who had similar symptoms, that they should get a test,” Rooney said.
While many individuals seek a test, Rooney said the hospital is still trying to stay focused on the high priority groups.
If individuals who call the line have emergency symptoms that need immediate care, the RN will direct the individual to the emergency department.
“If they are having symptoms but are not requiring emergency care, we’re actually teaching them a little bit about self-care at home,” Rooney said. In that case, the RN will discuss with the caller the CDC’s 10 suggestions for managing health at home.
Those 10 suggestions include things like staying home if you have symptoms, hydrating, covering coughs and sneezes and washing hands often. Also included is the suggestion to call your medical provider ahead of any medical appointments to let him or her know you may have COVID-19.
The nurse triage line phone number is 307-755-4750.