Contact: Thomas Hottman
By NORA AVERY-PAGE
H&N Staff Reporter
The Emergency Department at Sky Lakes Medical Center saw a record-breaking number of patients last week.
Saturday, July 19, 100 patients came through the emergency department in a 24-hour period, said Ron Woita, the director of emergency services at Sky Lakes.
Record numbers in the 90s had been reached earlier in the week as well, Woita added.
“Our numbers have continued to rise in the last few months,” he said.
The emergency department usually sees average patient numbers in the 60s, but since the beginning of the year, averages have increased to the mid-70s, Woita said.
There are several reasons for the increase, he said, citing the greater number of people with health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, and the lack of access to primary care physicians in the Basin.
“I think a lot of it is driven off of that people now have insurance,” Woita said.
Sky Lakes is continually working to improve patient access in the region as well, continually recruiting new physicians and nurse practitioners, Woita said.
The demographics of patients seen on high-volume days like last Saturday doesn’t change compared to less busy days, Woita said. There is a mix of patients both with acute illness and more minor cases.
Wait times on those particularly busy days increased to two to three hours.
But Woita understands patients are feeling sick, and it can be frustrating to see someone who came in after them being served first. It’s a matter of levels of illness, he said. A patient having a heart attack will of course be taken care of before one with a bad cough.
The department regularly assesses its numbers, and makes adjustments to service, such as the number of staff scheduled to work, as needed, Woita said.
Woita keeps in touch with other emergency directors across the country, and numbers of visits are up across the board, he said.
For local patients though, Woita said it is important to note that even when the department is busy, everyone receives the appropriate level of care.
PHOTO: Ron Woita, RN, Director of Sky Lakes Emergency Department