COVID-19 Vaccine Campaign for Montezuma County Begins at Southwest Health System Today

Southwest Health System began implementing Phase 1A of the state’s COVID-19 vaccine plan this morning. Local press were invited to watch SHS Chief of Staff Ben Carelock, DPM receive his first of 2 COVID-19 vaccines. The second to be given in 3 weeks. Dr. Carelock commented, “I’m proud to be taking the Covid-19 vaccine today. Proud of my community hospital for working so hard to get to this point; proud of my colleagues who lined up next to me to get vaccinated as well; and proud of the nearly 50,000 volunteers who stepped up to participate in the trial so the rest of us can benefit from their courage.”

SHS will vaccinate SHS’s healthcare workers, per the state guidelines today (12/16) and tomorrow (12/17) as well as others in the state’s “critical workforce”. More shipments are expected in the coming weeks from Pfizer and Moderna as they are allocated for first and second doses to those being vaccinated.

It is important to note that this first Phase, 1A, is for what the state has deemed the “critical workforce,” including hospital and clinic staff, assisted living residents and staff, home health, and EMS/Fire/Police/Public Health/Correctional Workers.  As plans are solidified for public distribution,  Montezuma County Public Health department will be distributing this information to the public. More information can be found at Montezuma County’s website and on Montezuma County Health Department’s and Montezuma County’s Facebook page.


CEO Community Update

Hospital Status Update by CEO Tony Sudduth 12-15-2020
I previously committed to providing regular updates to the community on how things were at SHS during this very difficult time. We appreciate the concern that has been shown by the community and your understanding of just how critical the wellbeing of this organization is to the community as a whole. As part of that we feel strongly it is very important that you have the factual data as to where things stand.
It has been a bit of a roller coaster ride for SHS over the past couple weeks. Last week we were very slow, and on Friday only had 7 inpatients of which 4 were COVID patients. We have also seen a downturn in ER visits, much like we experienced in April when it appeared people were staying at home and avoiding coming to the hospital. By Monday, it was a different story and continues to be so today.
Monday morning, we had 21 patients in the hospital. 11 of those were COVID patients and we also had inpatient surgeries scheduled that would require additional beds. As a result, we’ve shifted our location for post-surgical inpatients to the surgery/same day unit to allow for additional capacity. We’re thankful that we’ve been able to remain flexible to allow for this and are thankful that we have the additional space available to avoid having to shut down our surgical program as this would be detrimental to our community and our operations. Surgery is a critical component of the services we deliver.
We have a plan in place to ensure we have beds available to take care of a total of 38 total patients, but as I have said before, it does not matter how many physical beds you have if you do not have staff to take care of the patients. Staffing to 38 beds is challenging and will require considerable changes in staffing patterns and would require us shutting down other services areas in order to redirect staff to care for inpatients.
While discussing staffing I want to bring you up-to-date on our staff that have either been exposed or tested positive. As you will recall from the last update, at one point we had 36 staff members (clinical and non-clinical) either that had tested positive or had an exposure resulting in quarantine. At that point, we did some very straight forward “education” with our staff on the importance of maintaining precautions even outside of work. Since that time, we have seen a significant reduction in issues with only a few outlying incidents at present.
As I mentioned before, we are seeing ER number trending down and that concerns me. We know that people still have medical needs beyond COVID and want to make sure people continue to get needed medical care. Not doing so can have devastating health effects. While we still try to limit the number of individuals that come into the facility, we have put in place protective measures at every level of the hospital and clinic to assure that anyone that needs to enter our facility is entering a safe environment. We have once again expanded the use of telemedicine for clinic visits and will continue to do this in the near future.
We do remain concerned about what lies ahead. The numbers of positive cases locally are not getting better, in fact the positivity rate over the past 2 weeks was the highest since the beginning of this pandemic. (670 total tests, 236 positives, for a positive rate of 35.2%.) We are obviously seeing the fall-out from Thanksgiving and I have major concerns on what the Christmas Holiday will bring.

I have said for many weeks that I do not advocate another full shut down. I do not believe it is effective to shut down the small businesses and allow the bigger stores to continue on, some without regard to recommended precautions. Some of the busiest businesses in Cortez are the ones that I’ve noticed that, while having large signs posted at their doors about “Masks are Required” are allowing many of their patrons to enter without masks. This concerns me. The solution to slow the spread continues to be universally following precautions of Masks, Social Distancing and Frequent Hand Washing. It is only when this community accepts this fact that we will see this start to turn around. Unfortunately, even though the vaccine process is starting, it is not likely we will see significant impact from this until late summer 2021 at the earliest and that will be contingent upon a significant number of the community actually choosing to receive the vaccine. It is not expected that the vaccine will be available to the general public until late spring of next year. (Please see our posts specifically on the vaccine process for more details)
I will once again plead with the people of Montezuma County to please take this seriously and follow the recommended precautions so we can get this turned around. This is not a political request, it’s a logical request. We can’t continue down this path or the state will move the community to level Red. We already meet that criteria and the only thing that will prevent it is showing improvement. That’s not a hospital decision, a local MCPHD decision, or a local leadership decision, the CDPHE has that ability to do that and will if we do not see progress immediately and it is up to you as a community to avoid it.
Albert Einstein said, “The true definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Montezuma County cannot logically think we are going to continue with the same behavior and this is just going away, it will not happen. Wearing a mask is not a political statement, it’s a statement that you care about the people around you and you care about the success of your local businesses. Nobody wears a mask because they like it, they wear it because they care, so please show you care.

Tony Sudduth, CEO