Southwest Memorial Hospital is seeking to buy its own coronavirus testing equipment, and the facility has room to double its number of beds to 60 if a surge of hospitalizations are needed, said Southwest Health System CEO Tony Sudduth.
“When we get the equipment, we will be able to do rapid testing on campus with results in 2-4 hours,” Sudduth told the Montezuma County Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday. “Our goal is to expand testing.”
The hospital is negotiating to acquire the testing equipment, Sudduth said.
Thursday, SHS announced the county’s third case and first death attributed to COVID-19.
SHS has run a drive-thru clinic since March 18 to screen for flu and take samples for potential coronavirus cases. Suspected coronavirus samples are sent to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment for processing and results can take up to a week because of a statewide backlog. Southwest Memorial does not have the equipment to process a COVID-19 test, but hopes to obtain it soon.
If a person tests positive for flu at the drive-thru clinic, it is unlikely the person has coronavirus. If a patient with suspected symptoms does not have the flu and meets the coronavirus criteria of fever, dry cough and shortness of breath, a nasal swab specimen is taken by Southwest Memorial and sent to CDPHE who conducts the COVID-19 test.
Between March 18 and April 2 the drive-thru clinic has sent 200 COVID-19 tests to CDPHE, and the results of 60 tests are still pending.
As of Thursday, four tests have come back positive for the virus, but not all results have been returned, officials said.
One positive case was a La Plata County resident who returned home to quarantine. Three confirmed case are from Montezuma County residents, and one has died from the virus. The others are under quarantine. Officials are tracking down people who might have been in contact with the patients. Officials said more cases of coronavirus likely are in the county, and Southwest is preparing for a potential surge of cases in the coming weeks when the pandemic peaks.
Sudduth said the hospital has “several hundred” test kits at the drive-thru clinic to screen for the flu and for taking specimen samples of suspected COVID-19.
Keeping a supply of masks and gowns for health workers has challenging. SHS is ordering as many as it can, and has received donated masks.
SHS is researching the use of an ultraviolet light tower to disinfect masks so they can be used more than once.
Southwest Memorial has 25 critical care beds, but has the capacity to expand to 60 beds by utilizing the second floor in case of a surge of patients.
Serious cases of the respiratory disease may require the patient be hooked up to a ventilator. SHS has nine ventilators, hospital officials said.
The SHS drive-thru screening clinic is open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the EMS bus barn on the north side of the hospital campus.
As of Wednesday, 63 out of 64 Colorado counties had declared an emergency because of the pandemic.
There have been 3,342 confirmed cases in Colorado and 80 deaths. There are 23 cases in La Plata County, three in Montezuma County including one death, one in Archuleta County, and four in San Miguel County.
Southwest Memorial has taken a financial hit during the pandemic.
Sudduth said inpatient volume was down in March, and ER visits were about half of normal. Seventy-five staff were working from home, and 70% of clinic visits are being done over the phone. Some elective surgeries are still going forward.
The $2 trillion federal stimulus bill passed last week includes a recovery funding program for hospitals.