As COVID-19 went from being a new threat in the United States to being a very real threat in Scotts Bluff County, the leadership and staff at Regional West had prepared for the eventuality well before the county’s first confirmed case on March 29, 2020.
Regional West Chief Medical Officer Matthew Bruner, MD, FACOG, said he recalls talking with hospital leadership about COVID-19 in December 2019. Those talks became more intense in February 2020 and into early March when the first Nebraska case was diagnosed in Omaha.
The University of Nebraska Medical Center and Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services took the lead in establishing a plan and protocols for patients and staff. Regional West leadership used that guidance to tailor a plan for implementation.
“We had to cater our plan to what was going to be effective in Scotts Bluff County,” said Regional West President and CEO John Mentgen, FACHE. “You could look at what they were doing in other locations, but no two counties are alike.”
Mentgen praised the Regional West staff’s dedication throughout the pandemic. “Courageous is not a big enough word for our staff,” he said. “Our people were on the front line. People helping people.”
In tandem with the Rural Nebraska Healthcare Network, Regional West continued to coordinate care services, staffing, and supplies for patients and staff, while preparing for the eventual need to provide specialized services as virus numbers increased.
Regional West Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer Amanda Vick, RN, said it was a challenge to keep up with the staffing changes.
“We had to find a way to balance things, whether it was on an hourly basis or a daily basis or a weekly basis,” Vick said. “It was always about rebalancing our staffing needs, based on the needs of the patients coming through our doors every day.”
The community stepped up to help, making cloth masks, donating food and gift cards for the staff, and creating a night called “Light Up Regional West” on May 2 when local first responders drove by the facility with their flashing lights on in a show of support for the staff.
Dr. Bruner said he is proud of how the Regional West staff handled the onset of COVID-19, and how they are still handling things today.
“Our people across the health system stepped-up, rather than shrinking back,” he said. “The Regional West team worked around the clock to care for the community, and by stepping up, the team came together and succeeded on many fronts throughout this pandemic.”