The Allamakee County vote to determine if Veterans Memorial Hospital converts from a city-owned hospital to a county-owned hospital is included in the general election on November 8. Converting to a county hospital will allow for county tax appropriations to help ensure long-term sustainability of the hospital to make some much needed capital improvements.
“The main goal of this conversion is to make sure Veterans Memorial is here for the community for the long term,” stated Michael Coyle, CEO of Veterans Memorial Hospital. “To do that, we need additional resources not only to retain our inpatient services, but to expand them and have the funds to keep the 70 plus year old building up to code.”
The hospital’s rooves are in great need of being replaced and will be a top priority with county tax appropriations if the vote is passed.
Dave Martin, Maintenance Supervisor at the hospital states, “Three quarters of the entire campus needs replacement. These rooves are at end of life being 23 years old now and need to be a top priority. Currently, when we have a heavy rain fall we have areas that we are patching as needed, but this is a temporary band-aide.”
The Emergency Rooms are another identified area of the hospital needing significant capital improvements which these tax appropriations would support. Currently there are just two main ER trauma rooms with two beds in each room, separated by a curtain, for the staff to care for multiple patients in the ER. The numbers of patients seen in the ER has continually increased each year for the past decade.
“We have worked with the same amount of space, or real estate, in our ER for the last 20 years since I have been here,” states Cheryl Livingston, Paramedic. “When I first began here, we would see three patients on average in our ER and now a typical day can be as high as 25 patients. We are truly doing more with less.”
Currently patients must share their ER room with another patient which leaves a huge gap in patient confidentiality and privacy for needed emergency procedures. In addition to the ER needing additional private trauma rooms and beds, there are currently no isolation rooms or rooms that provide negative pressure. Rooms are so crowded beds must be pushed out of the way to allow needed emergency equipment to be brought into the room.
“We have concerns with the flow in our ER to have easy access to our supplies, equipment and medications,” states Teresa Schaefers, ER Nurse. “We also greatly need a centralized nurse’s station for safety and privacy of our patients. Plus our families struggle to have any space at all to be near their loved one.”
The current ER area in the hospital was added onto the building in 1976. Remodeling of the rooms including flooring and cabinetry were made in 2000, but no renovations have ever been made to the actual space in these two ER rooms in nearly 50 years.
“We have numerous ambulance crews who are coming into the ER with their patients and many times those patients need to be transferred after being stabilized when we are not able to provide the level of care they need,” states Jacob Dougherty, Paramedic, EMS Supervisor. “Often we need to hold patients here because the larger hospitals are not accepting patients and we have to keep them right in our limited ER space until we can find them a room. We also have needs for expanding our cardiac and oxygen monitoring for more advanced availability.”
Aandi Deering of Postville is an Advanced EMT with the Postville Ambulance Service. Postville is one of seven ambulance services who transfer emergency patients to Veterans Memorial Hospital. He comments on his experiences as an EMT/AEMT at Veterans Memorial Hospital.
“When we arrive with a patient, we never know what room we will go into and if there is actually a bed available in ER1 or ER2. There’s two beds in each room and generally that is ok, but if you are the patient in the general ER and we bring in someone else critical, the barriers are not great or always private. The ER Staff there, Nursing and Paramedics, is always good. It’s what they have to work with and they do fine, but could at times be in a pickle and need more rooms. Honestly, I’ve been over there a lot and becoming a county hospital would really open the doors for VMH. They are our closest facility and the one we go to the most so this vote is very important.”
Other capital improvements that the hospital would greatly benefit from if the community votes to make them a county hospital is adding a second OR room, upgrading of the electronic medical record to the EPIC system for greater communication with other facilities, and for much needed physician recruitment.
For questions on the proposed conversion of Veterans Memorial Hospital to a county hospital, please call the hospital at 563-568-5678 and a member of the staff will return the call.