Rawlins hospital

As Memorial Hospital of Carbon County in Rawlins defends against water leakage issues found in their hydronic heating system, staffers have had to improvise to prevent further damages. Here, a CT scanner on the first floor sits under a tent on Tuesday morning.

RAWLINS – Since Friday, outside specialists have been trying to mitigate damaging water leaks inside Memorial Hospital of Carbon County, according to a hospital spokesperson.

With specialists pinpointing the problem to the building’s hydronic heating system, it was shut down to prevent any further water damage from occurring, hospital spokesperson Stephanie Hinkle told the Rawlins Times on Tuesday morning. The damage was so significant, Hinkle said some inpatients were outsourced to surrounding hospitals in Rock Springs, Casper and Laramie.

“No patients were negatively impacted whatsoever through this process,” Hinkle said. “But because of the limited facilities that we have, we did take steps to provide the best patient care possible and outsourced them to other facilities for their benefit.”

According to Ivinson Memorial Hospital marketing specialist Sagan Wheeler, the Laramie hospital is yet to feel any impact from the Rawlins hospital.

“As soon as we were informed of the situation at Memorial Hospital, they were incredibly proactive and alerted us right away,” she said. “And we do have a transfer agreement in place. But we actually haven’t seen an influx of patients from Carbon County at this time.”

The direct cause behind the hydronic system’s leak is unknown as of press time. In an attempt to protect hospital equipment and infrastructure from further substantial damages, various units have been completely shut down.

“We’ve had extensive water damage in multiple areas,” Hinkle said. “At this point, we have had to close all inpatient care areas. That being said, however, the emergency room, the lab and the radiology department are still open within the hospital.”

Departments such as obstetrics and gynecology, intensive care and surgical units are currently inoperable, said Hinkle. Full remediation efforts have been conducted to ensure safety standards before any of these areas can be used again.

With hospital staff working nearly around the clock, one of the main preventative steps they’ve taken includes placing tarp over various machines and equipment. The CT scanner on the first floor, for example, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, is currently covered by a cross-cable tent. The hospital pharmacy, meanwhile, is closed down, so prescription drugs were reallocated to a vending machine that now sits in the cafeteria.

Asked if the hospital, built in 1971, has dealt with any major leakage issues in the past, Hinkle said, “It has not.”

“We have great maintenance guys that work hard to make sure everything is operating at its optimal level,” she said. “We’ve certainly not had anything at this level or capacity that has occurred before.”

“Again,” Hinkle added, “We’re very anxious to find out the root cause so that we can take action to prevent any further issues.”

As to the question of when the leaks will be fully fixed and when the hospital will be restored to fully operational, the answer is currently unknown.

“As of right now, we don’t know if we’re looking at three days, we don’t know if we’re looking at two weeks,” Hinkle said.

Hospital officials are also compiling cost estimates related to damages to inventory, insurance and loss of business, among other costs, said Hinkle. Area clinics, however, including the Wagon Circle Orthopedic and Family Practice are still open.

Asked about the current atmosphere of Memorial Hospital, Hinkle praised staff efforts.

“We have an amazing staff,” she said. “Everybody has come together and is working incredibly well together. It’s been all hands on deck. From water clean-up, to dirty linens, to making sure that people are getting fed, it’s been a true team spirit in the facility. People are very upbeat.”

“We absolutely want to convey the message that we are still here to provide patient care on an emergent basis and the family practice settings are there for the non-emergent issues,” Hinkle added. “We will take every step possible to provide that continuity of care and do what’s best for the community.”

According to a Tuesday press release, the water leaks are unrelated to an incident that occurred on Feb. 4. That day, the release states, an employee accidentally bumped a sprinkler head, causing it to release a large amount of water from an interior water line. That issue, however, has been resolved.

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