Continuing the Crook County News Since 1884

CCMSD to secure new ventilators

Equipment needed for critical care when transfers are unavailable

Crook County Medical Services District (CCMSD) is purchasing additional ventilation equipment to address shortages within the hospital. The hope is to also solve the problems that have been experienced in trying to find beds at surrounding hospitals for patients in need of higher levels of care during spikes of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need more ventilation equipment,” said Bob Hart, Trauma Program Manager. The district is facing other shortages too, he told the Crook County Commissioners during their regular meeting, but ventilators are the priority.

Hart explained that there are various levels of ventilation as a patient’s condition deteriorates. When spikes hit, it’s not long before ICU units are full and it becomes difficult – if not impossible – to transfer patients.

CCMSD has found itself sending patients as far as Billings or Idaho to find open ICU beds. When beds are no longer available, it becomes necessary to provide critical care here in Sundance.

Throughout the pandemic, Hart said, he has watched CCMSD’s nurses perform tasks he never thought he’d see them do, and perform those tasks very well.

The ventilators in question are relatively inexpensive, according to Hart, who said some types can cost up to a quarter million dollars. The two units to be purchased cost just $40,000, including the training, and come equipped with several sizes of mask.

This is necessary not just to accommodate children, but also to allow mask types to be rotated. They create heavy pressure on a patient’s face, Hart explained, so rotating them allows those points of contact to be changed regularly.

Delivery of the ventilators will take 40 days. Right now, said Hart, the pandemic has cooled off, but waiting until the next spike begins to ramp up risks ending up with the ventilators on back order.

Wesley Davis (Emergency Nurse Practitioner) made the point that the ventilators will not just be useful for COVID-19.

“The life of these machines will go beyond that,” he said, explaining that they are also used for other instances of respiratory distress, such as pneumonia.

At this time, according to Davis, the district has two ventilation machines that perform about half the function and are normally used when transporting patients to other facilities. However, during the pandemic they have been used within the hospital itself.

Some patients have needed to stay on them for five to ten days, Davis said, but they are not meant for that use. Situations have also arisen in which the hospital has had more patients needing ventilation than machines to provide that function, which has meant making decisions on who to put on them.

The machines have been proven to keep people off more invasive ventilation, said Davis, and are successfully being used in Gillette.

Though the original request was to use American Rescue Plan Act funds to purchase the machines, County Attorney Joe Baron suggested that there may be some unspent public health funds that could be used to cover the cost and said he could look into the grants to see if this would be possible. As the machines will be purchased using a 30-day invoice, Commissioner Fred Devish stated that he would like to see the order put in now and the correct funding source can be identified before the bill comes due.

The commissioners gave their blessing to go ahead with the order for two ventilation machines.