Patient surge hits Cheyenne hospital

CASPER — An increase in people seeking care for a variety of illnesses strained Cheyenne Regional Medical Center staff last week. 

More than 20 patients Thursday were stuck in Cheyenne’s emergency department waiting for an inpatient bed, according to a Monday release from the hospital. 

The patient surge was caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as well as an increasing number of medical emergencies like heart attacks, strokes and complications from diabetes. The facility activated contingency plans to “surge beyond normal capacity,” according to the hospital’s release. 

The hospital noted that emergency wait times will also likely increase amid the influx of patients. Monday morning, 11 patients were waiting in the emergency department for an inpatient bed. 

“We anticipate this situation will be short lived …,” reads the hospital statement, signed by CEO Tim Thornell. “We are sharing this news so that our community understands why emergency wait times are increasing and why inpatient rooms are not readily available.” 

Wyoming’s COVID-19 hospitalization dashboard was not updated Monday, but the latest data shows Cheyenne’s facility was treating nearly 40 active virus patients Friday, with nine of 25 intensive care unit beds available. 

Dr. Mark Dowell, Natrona County health officer and infectious disease expert, said treating patients in the emergency room while waiting for inpatient space is part of the new pandemic normal. 

“That has been the case at any time when the hospital has been full,” Dowell said of Casper’s Wyoming Medical Center, adding that it is “not new information.” 

Wyoming Medical Center, the state’s largest hospital, is also still dealing with a high number of patients, with COVID-19 patients still making up more than a quarter of the facility’s beds. 

Just one of the hospital’s 20 intensive care unit beds was available Friday. 

While the state’s largest hospitals are dealing with a high number of virus patients, the statewide number of people being treated for COVID-19 has dropped significantly from mid October. 

Fewer than 170 Wyomingites were hospitalized Friday — down from nearly 250 people in late October. That is still much higher than the lows seen this spring and summer. 

In May, the number of Wyomingites hospitalized with COVID-19 hovered around 20. 

State data indicates September and October have been among the deadliest months for the virus since its March 2020 arrival in Wyoming. 

Health officials have said the recent decline likely does not indicate that the delta variant is behind us. 

“I absolutely do not think that the delta variant is running its course right now at all,” Dowell said via text message last week. “We are still in the middle of it.”