Hospital logs busiest month ever in March |

Hospital logs busiest month ever in March

— The local hospital had its busiest month ever in March, a fact that officials said should prove to the community that the new Yampa Valley Medical Center is fully capable of caring for a large number of patients.

Patient days were up 30 percent last month, surgical procedures up 10 percent, births up 45 percent and emergency department visits up 16 percent compared to the same time last year at Routt Memorial Hospital.

Steamboat Springs Health Care Association Chief Executive Officer Margeret Sabin said the new hospital is prepared to handle large numbers of patients.

“Although we’re seeing a steady decrease in the utilization of inpatient facilities because of advances in medicine, we made sure we would have enough room for situations like our busy March at this facility.

“We absolutely have enough room and have overflow areas designed for situations like these.”

Sabin attributed the growing numbers of users in part to community growth and the new, improved facility.

“Patients like coming to this facility and we are getting patients from outreach areas where before, they may have gone to another facility,” she said. “Our facilities are sought after and I think we’re going to continue to see this growth, maybe not every month, but throughout the year.”

Sabin credited the hospital’s staff of 400 for providing excellent health care during the busy month.

“The staff pitched in and worked extra hours and on their days off to be sure that all our patient needs were met,” she said. “What would we do without our wonderful staff. We can’t always have extra staff around for a month like this.”

Linda Casner, director of nursing, said the hospital isn’t regularly staffed to care for 624 patients in one month, but has a fall-back plan of action.

“We have established a core staffing level in our medical-surgical, intensive care, emergency and obstetrics nursing departments for the patient volume that we anticipate. We flex up as needed, depending on volume and acuity levels,” she said. “March was so unexpectedly busy that it was very challenging to find sufficient staff with the right skills mix to flex up to meet demand. Our nursing administrators were here almost around the clock at times, and the nursing staff really came through during an extremely difficult time.”

Sandy Spiegel, nurse manager for medical, surgical and intensive care units, said patients treated by the hospital during March came in every shape, size and ailment.

“We saw everything from intensive care patients, births and deliveries to high medical types of surgeries like cardiac and respiratory patients, and also orthopedic injuries coming in off the mountain. It seemed like everything came in and all at the same time,” Spiegel said. “When the nurses become busy, the entire hospital is busy: housekeeping, dietary and administration, as well as doctors and nurses. It’s like a community of people working together to provide the best patient care possible.”

Hospitals in larger metropolitan areas depend on “pool nurses” from agencies to cover short-term staffing needs, Casner said. The option of using on-call nurses isn’t feasible in Routt County because of the lead time required to bring in the extra help.

“I”m very grateful to the nursing staff of YVMC for their willingness to work extra shifts during March,” Casner said.

For the first four months of complete operations at the new Yampa Valley Medical Center, December through March, the hospital has out-performed the same four-month period from years past. During the period, patient days were up 28 percent, surgical procedures up 15 percent, births up 56 percent and emergency department visits up 14 percent.

— To reach Bryna Larsen, call 871-4205 or e-mail

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