Hospital sees more traumaDickinson’s only hospital is seeing about a 50-percent increase in the number of emergency room visits each month than it did last year.
Dickinson’s only hospital is seeing about a 50-percent increase in the number of emergency room visits each month than it did last year.
In a quarterly update provided to the Dickinson City Commission Monday evening at City Hall, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Health Center spokesperson Dennis Cannon, said emergency room visits have increased from 800 per month last year to 1,200 per month this year.
The number of trauma patients coming into the hospital has increased during the last year, coinciding with an increase in the severity of cases, Cannon said Wednesday.
“The CEO’s are talking about their ERs are the ones that are being impacted, not so much the med/surg (medical/surgery) areas of the hospital as it is the ERs after hours, the trauma and all of that,” said Jerry Jurena, president of the North Dakota Hospital Association, of which St. Joseph’s is a member.
Of the approximate 1,200 visits per month, less than 2 percent are transferred out because a higher level of acute care is available elsewhere, Cannon said.
Patients are diverted when St. Joseph’s is full and in the last 17 months, 15 patients have been sent to Bismarck, Cannon said Wednesday.
“So if you came in with a heart attack, we do not have a cardiologist so we would stabilize and then transfer,” Cannon said.
Of the hospital’s 25 Critical Access beds, a federal hospital status, the first three months of the fiscal year — July, August and September — saw an average daily census of 14.
In October, the average daily census was 22.
“That’s why critical access status is so important for our hospital,” Cannon said. “When we have five patients, the federal government helps us. When we have 22 or 25 patients, they take a little so it evens us out. It makes us very affordable to have hospitals in small communities.”
Fiscal responsibility is very important to the hospital, Cannon said, adding last quarter the hospital’s profits were slightly below 1 percent of sales and last year at this time profits were slightly more than 3 percent of sales.
Last year, the hospital performed slightly more than $1 million in charity care, Cannon said, adding it is “not bad debt.”
With 357 employees, the hospital is actively recruiting two emergency physicians, two general surgeons, an orthopedic surgeon, a nurse practitioner and a physician’s assistant, Cannon said.
The hospital recently hired a radiologist which has increased volumes, Cannon said.
Jurena said the NDHA is being inundated with phone calls from western North Dakota hospitals saying they are being swamped and need additional staff.
Jurena said while hospitals in areas like Stanley, Tioga and Watford City are sometimes able to find additional staff, housing shortages due to an influx of people are causing a problem for the facilities.
“They’re traveling an hour or two hours to come to work,” Jurena said.
St. Joseph’s major concerns are what can happen in North Dakota’s frigid winters, an increase in industry-related traumas, staff and patient security, Cannon said.
“Of all the things we want you to know, our hospital is consistently doing well and we are consistently making a profit,” Cannon said.