Wyoming Hospitals Invest in Leading-Edge Treatment

The influx of newcomers to Wyoming has made the states hospitals more nimble.

Michaela Jackson
On Sunday, September 11, 2011 - 18:55

The influx of newcomers to Wyoming has made the state’s hospitals more nimble.

Wyoming Hospitals Support Workforce, Community

To handle higher admissions Wyoming’s hospitals have upgraded their care and recruited specialists. Lacking the market base hospitals in larger states draw on, care providers rely on greater efficiency and outside funding sources to stay in the black.

Through these efforts, hospitals are a powerful force in Wyoming's economic development, with 26 acute-care hospitals employing 8,800 workers. Another 15,000 jobs are related to the hospital industry, creating an annual economic impact of more than $1.45 billion.

Programs and Services

More important, the hospitals offer programs and services that compare favorably to hospitals in larger locales. Part of that success stems from having physicians and boards of directors fully supportive of quality initiatives, says Trudy Chittick, CEO of Hot Springs County Memorial Hospital in Thermopolis.

Chittick’s hospital, for example, purchased a 64-slice CT scanner, fully digital mammography technology and a 3-D ultrasound unit that gives patients the same quality of care they’d receive in more urban facilities.

The investments allow Hot Springs to serve the needs of its region, which has Wyoming’s highest concentration of older residents. Patients in the past had to leave town to see a physician, forcing them to spend money on hotels and other services outside the area.

With studies showing that patients perform better in familiar settings, Hot Springs officials wanted to keep these patients close to home. The CT scanner means that patients won’t need a cardiac catherization, lessening risk. It also delivers faster results than other tests, helping to ease the hospital’s busy emergency department.

Chittick hopes to replace the existing hospital, which dates back 50 years and has undergone some small renovations.

Convenience for Wyoming Residents

Such a project has already occurred at Star Valley Medical Center in Afton. CEO Steve Perry says when he arrived nearly a decade ago the existing facility was too small and inefficient. The next hospital is 55 miles away, meaning that patients must use Star Valley or travel across the state to another provider.

With strong community support, Star Valley opened a new hospital in July 2003. The new hospital was built adjacent to the old facility, which was transformed into physician offices. A long-term acute-care hospital was built next door, allowing people to move from building to building without going outside.

In addition to the bricks-and-mortar work, the hospital sought specialists to staff the hos­pital. The first recruit was an ortho­pedic surgeon, who was followed by a neurosurgeon, an ENT doctor and a pulmonologist.

Today, orthopedics has grown to include multiple surgeons performing five to 10 knee replacements each month. “It takes some work and some time, but we have two or three things going for us. We’re in a beautiful and growing community and we’ve got a new hospital, which makes all of the difference in the world,” Perry says.




Michaela Jackson has worked as a reporter for The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville, Tennessee, as well as a freelance writer for a variety of regional and national magazines.