Memorial Returns to Emergency Status
August 30, 2021
In an email to hospital staff, President Art Mathisen cited the recent surge of non-COVID patients requiring “highly specialized inpatient and emergency care” in a region where COVID-19 cases are rising and regional hospital volume is close to capacity. “We are keeping more patients at Memorial that we would typically move to another facility because there are no other beds available.”
According to the hospital, a Code White declaration is “an operational response” to the growing demands placed on the hospital and its resources and not a response to any particular case or incident.
“The Code White allows all of us to focus extra attention on our role in patient care – at the bedside or in supporting position,” says, “and make certain each of us has the resources to continue providing excellent patient care. The Code White also reinforces the need for each of us to channel information up through your supervisor so resources can be planned appropriately and deployed quickly, and for communications and messaging to be accurate and consistent.”
The previous Code White at Memorial ended July 16 after 494 days. At that time, daily COVID-19 cases appeared to be trending downward, hospitalizations for COVID-19 were declining, and vaccine clinics throughout the region were bustling. Since then, a new COVID-19 delta variant has been surging, mostly among the unvaccinated, cases and hospitalizations have steadily grown, and the vaccination rate has stalled. State and national data show the increase in COVID-19 related hospitalizations are primarily among those who are unvaccinated.
At the same time, Memorial and other medical providers have seen an increase in patients for non-COVID-19 care, including some elective services delayed during the pandemic. “We are busier now than we were prior to the pandemic,” says Memorial Chief Medical Officer Dr. Matt Dunn. Both Mathisen and Dunn say increasing the vaccination rate is the easiest way to ease the volume on the health care system. Dunn stresses the track record now available showing vaccine effectiveness.
“We have several months of data, hundreds of millions of doses administered throughout the world, and data showing that vaccines reduce the incidence of COVID-19 infections and, if a break through infection occurs, serious illness and hospitalization is unlikely. Most hospitalizations for COVID-19 are preventable with a vaccine.”
The Memorial Hospital vaccine clinic, once open 5-days-a-week at the former Mt Washington Discovery Center in North Conway, is now limited to Wednesdays from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. due to low demand. The clinic can easily increase to almost 300 vaccines daily, but until that need arises the staff has returned to other patient care duties in the hospital.
Mathisen noted in his email to staff that the current situation differs from what was experienced in Spring 2020 in that more is known about COVID-19 and the hospital is doing more to continuing provide patient care while facing the virus. “Our mission at Memorial has not changed, he wrote. “We must do all that we can to care for the patients that come through our doors.”
About Memorial Hospital
Memorial Hospital is a not-for-profit 25-bed Critical Access Hospital located in North Conway, NH, and is a member of the MaineHealth family. Its hospital services include a 24-hour emergency department, surgery center, clinical laboratory, heart health & wellness programs, imaging services, cardiopulmonary care, family birthing center, oncology, chemotherapy and infusion services. Practices include primary care and family medicine, diabetes care, behavioral health, women's health, podiatry, orthopedics and physical therapy. Memorial Hospital is also home to The Merriman House nursing home, which provides senior care services in a comfortable, home-like setting. For more information, www.memorialhospitalnh.org or call 603-356-5461.