KINGMAN — Area hospital administrators agree that the COVID-19 pandemic is very real and is not a fabrication of politicians, public health officials and the media.
That much was clear as the chief executive officers of the largest hospitals in Kingman, Bullhead City and Lake Havasu answered media questions during Tuesday’s Mohave County press conference in Kingman.
Fatigue in the health care industry and throughout society was one talking point.
“We’ve been doing this now for 4 1/2 months and it’s getting old,” said Michael Stenger, of Western Arizona Regional Medical Center in Bullhead City. “It’s a very physically exhausting, emotionally exhausting and spiritually exhausting situation when you see people die and you know that people whose loved ones are in the hospital are very, very sick with COVID and can’t come and see them for their own protection.”
Stenger and Kingman Regional Medical Center’s Will McConnell said the coronavirus has impacted local health care institutions in unprecedented fashion.
“What we’re seeing in our hospitals is something we’ve never seen before,” McConnell said.
“Over the past two months we’ve had an average of at least one COVID death every single day,” said Denise Burley, director of public health for Mohave County. She noted that the county set a record with 413 new positive cases documented last week, and 1,061 over a three-week period when the county total stood at just under 2,000 cases over the previous 18 weeks.
Picking up on the same theme, Stenger called it “the tale of two pandemics” with a slow start followed by a significant surge. He said the positive case test rate at WARMC was 25% with 15 deaths from March 1 through mid-June — 3 1/2 months — but 37% with 19 deaths over the last month.
“There’s no question that this isn’t over. There’s no question it’s not too late to take this very, very seriously and do everything you possibly can to save yourself, your family, your friends, your neighbors, your co-workers and people that you know out and about in the community,” Stegner said. “This may not get worse but it’s not going away.”
Burley said her department is sticking with its face-covering recommendation to stem spread of the virus.
“When you’re unable to social distance, you should be wearing a mask,” she said. “It protects other people. That is what you’re doing and what we’re trying to do is prevent the transmission of this virus throughout our community.”
Like his colleagues, CEO Mike Pattterson said sufficient patient bed space and personal protective equipment are in supply at Havasu Regional Medical Center. He said the hospital currently has 40 COVID-19 patients with five on ventilators.
McConnell said nine KRMC ICU patients are on ventilators and that seven of them are being treated for COVID-19. He said the hospital has five more ICU beds immediately available and a surge expansion plan to get to 32 beds if needed.
McConnell said KRMC staff has conducted mock drills to test ability to handle a significant surge. Patterson said additional nursing and support staff from out of state would be coming to Lake Havasu City to help public officials handle the pandemic.