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Mohave County hospital CEOs: The surge is real

The CEO of Kingman Regional Medical Center said Monday, Dec. 21 that 96 KRMC employees have contracted COVID-19 this month, causing staffing shortages. (KRMC courtesy photo)

The CEO of Kingman Regional Medical Center said Monday, Dec. 21 that 96 KRMC employees have contracted COVID-19 this month, causing staffing shortages. (KRMC courtesy photo)

KINGMAN – Local hospital CEOs gathered for a COVID-19 press conference on Tuesday, Dec. 22 and confirmed that a significant coronavirus surge has been occurring in Mohave County over the past six weeks.

“The surge is real and we are seeing many more COVID-19 patients,” said Kingman Regional Medical Center CEO Will McConnell in his opening statement. “Our 30-day rolling average is over 24%.”

He said 96 KRMC staffers contracted COVID-19 this month, including 47 in the past week (40% of those were bedside support employees).

KRMC is still able to cope, and has adequate space and ventilators, but staffing is becoming more and more of an issue, McConnell said.

There were 51 COVID-19 patients in KRMC at noon on Dec. 22, McConnell said. The hospital is working on re-employment of some nurses they worked with in the past, and is pulling staff from other KRMC facilities. He described the surge plan as constantly changing and “situational,” a big part of it being how to remain operational with a “skeleton crew,” McConnell said.

Mohave County Public Health Director Denise Burley’s opening message to the community was: This is not the flu.

“When you do the math, the mortality rate is about five times higher than the flu,” she said.

Asked about the usefulness of a state or local mask mandate, Burley said she has no doubt that masks work. She called face-coverings a “commitment to the community.”

“It’s really important; hospitals are under a lot of demand,” Burley said in the context of the upcoming holiday break. “We are so close,” she said, referring to the vaccine. “Four to six months and we get back to new normal.”

She recommended following the CDC guidelines in terms of rules for observing Christmas and traveling, and said this way next year Christmas will be “a celebratory time.”

Burley, McConnell and other hospital CEOs all declared they will get vaccinated against COVID-19, however they all are willing to wait for their turn.

“It’s a very personal decision,” McConnell said about the upcoming vaccinations of the “1A” population (health care and emergency workers, long-term care patients and staff). The vaccine will not be mandatory, and those employees who abstain will be moved to “the back of the line,” McConnell said. He added he hopes that the reluctance of the population will go away with time, and the COVID-19 vaccine will become as normal as any other vaccine we receive.

Burley said both vaccines that will be used in the community – Pfizer and Moderna – are “very equal” and have about 95% effectiveness. The longevity of the immunity period is not known yet, McConnell said.

About 70% of the community has to be vaccinated to start building herd immunity, Burley said.

McConnell and other hospital CEOs praised their staff and said that despite the surge, the hospitals have developed over time a greater ability to treat COVID-19 successfully, and patients are being hospitalized for shorter periods of time.

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