BBAHC juggles patient care amid uptick of COVID cases in the region

Oct 25, 2021

“We've prepared and have supplies that we need and teams that we're able to send out to villages and people that come and help on the floor, that work in other departments when we need help,” said Incident Commander Jennifer DeWinne.

Kanakanak Hospital. Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021.
Credit Izzy Ross/KDLG

The state reported 128 COVID-19 cases in Bristol Bay within the past week — 92 in the Dillingham area and 36 in the Lake and Peninsula and Bristol Bay boroughs. The region’s case count for the past 14 days is at 234, with 163 in the Dillingham area and 71 in the boroughs.

Meanwhile, the Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation reported 46 COVID-19 cases in six communities from Oct. 14-20, including three cases in the City of Dillingham.

Screengrab of Alaska DHSS COVID Case Count Dashboard. Oct. 25, 2021
Credit Alaska Department of Health and Social Services

Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation Incident Commander Jennifer DeWinne said earlier this month that despite the high case counts across the region, the health corporation is handling the situation well.

“We've prepared and have supplies that we need and teams that we're able to send out to villages and people that come and help on the floor, that work in other departments when we need help,” she said.

Kanakanak Hospital in Dillingham is a critical access hospital with 16 inpatient beds, so patients with more severe needs are usually transferred to other facilities.

But DeWinne said the strain on other health care facilities around the state makes it more difficult to know whether the hospital will be able to send out patients who need additional care.

DeWinne said the number of staff needed depends on the severity of each patient’s condition. And the number of patients can fluctuate quickly. That, in addition to other factors like the weather, means coordinating patients is a challenge.

Screengrab of Alaska DHSS COVID Case Count Dashboard. Oct. 25, 2021.
Credit Izzy Ross/KDLG

“Say we have three patients here that are not COVID-related, and then we get, you know, two patients admitted — they need high flow oxygen, and they're very sick, and they have COVID," she said. "Then you get somebody and the emergency department that you're trying to determine if you can admit them, or do you need to transfer. And then you have somebody in a village that needs a medivac. That could overwhelm us, depending on how intensely we have to care for them.”

DeWinne said the health corporation communicates regularly with the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association and other facilities, mainly through the state’s Transfer Center.

“They help find an appropriate place for a patient," she said. "Or we might, you know, receive patients that we’re able to care for. So it is everybody coming together on a daily basis and providing updates because it does change every day.”

DeWinne said BBAHC sends teams out to villages that have COVID outbreaks. It is also providing monoclonal antibody treatments to COVID patients. It encourages patients who test positive for COVID to contact their health care provider to determine whether they should receive that treatment.

Contact the author at izzy@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.

Tags: