Editor’s Note: The following message was written by Breanna Caraway, Admin Director (Emergency Department, ICU)
Like hospital leaders across the nation, I’m seeing first-hand the physical, emotional and operational challenges caused by COVID-19 every day. This is especially true for hospital emergency and critical care departments, like the ICU. The volume of high acuity (very sick) patients is rising at a staggering rate, yet the compassion, dedication and pure heart our care teams provide patients is beyond words.
We are in a second surge of COVID-19 in Yuma, and it is serious. Our Emergency Department (ED) team is working around the clock to help meet the needs of this sharp influx of patients. Our ED wait times have grown well beyond what is considered normal. This is disappointing to our care team who worked tirelessly to reduce wait times over the last 3 years. We had made successful strides in doing so until COVID-19 hit.
Our goal as care providers is to provide every patient with efficient, high quality clinical expertise. We are currently seeing a higher number of ED patients being admitted to YRMC for critical care, many needing breathing support or ventilators, and requiring a higher degree of medical expertise. To address this sharp rise in critical care needs, our team has initiated several key actions designed to expand our capabilities and improve our department operations.
As a member of YRMC’s ED/ICU team and as someone who dearly loves my hometown of Yuma, I want our community to know how much we care and the steps we are taking to make sure we are caring for you or your loved one:
- YRMC uses a triage system to treat the sickest patients. If you come to the Emergency Department, a nurse will assess your health situation. Patients who are high-risk will receive first priority. This is standard operation for emergency care nationwide.
- While YRMC has the physical capacity to admit patients, we are challenged with having sufficient staff. Our volumes are even higher than the predictive models have estimated. As we are able to recruit additional clinical staff, we will continue to open additional COVID-19 units.
- At this time, we are hiring additional EMT/Paramedics to supplement and support ED staff who are working extremely hard to provide care to every patient.
- YRMC has called upon outpatient clinic providers and staff to serve as temporary support to our inpatient team.
- Our hospital continues to work closely with the Arizona Department of Health Services to utilize the COVID-19 surge line. This is a state collaboration that helps hospitals find another facility within the state to care for a critically ill patient, should an ICU reach its capacity. It also provides hospitals with additional clinical staff to support the demand. With the next week, we anticipate a small “strike team” of nurses and respiratory therapists to arrive to support our YRMC medical team.
- Critical Care nurses are being stretched. We’ve implemented a team nursing model to provide RN support to specially trained critical nurses, allowing them to focus on critical patients.
Our community’s support continues to be heartfelt. From sewing masks to kind words of encouragement to staff who are giving their all to help, you have been a tremendous support. A powerful way you can continue to assist our hospital team during this difficult and demanding time is by being patient with us and consider the suggestions listed below. We understand that wait times are higher than usual and are higher than we strive for. We know you may be visiting our ED because you are experiencing serious discomfort or pain. As healthcare professionals, our very nature and calling is to help you and we will do so.
Here is how you can help:
- Remember that the Emergency Department is best used for emergencies. As an integrated health system, YRMC offers many other settings which may be more appropriate for the level of care you need, including walk-in care clinics and primary care offices.
- Consider consulting with your primary care physician before coming to the ED. Your doctor will let you know if you may need further treatment.
- The Emergency Department is not a COVID-19 testing center. For a list of COVID-19 testing centers, click here: azdhs.gov/testing.
- As a reminder, if you have tested positive for COVID-19, you should quarantine and treat your symptoms at home, unless you experience the emergent symptoms list on the CDC website
As healthcare professionals we want to give our best to every patient. That’s why we chose a medical career. It’s who we are. Our healthcare heroes at YRMC are truly incredible professionals who care for our community. They are simply amazing people who are committed to caring for their neighbors, even when they are tired and sometimes discouraged by the challenges of this global pandemic.
I, like so many that work here, consider it an honor to care for our neighbors, friends and visitors. This pandemic is a challenge, and it is hard, but we are not about to give up. Just like we have over the last two years in our efforts to improve emergency care, we will conquer this and will take every challenge as an opportunity to get better.
Administrative Director, Emergency Department and ICU