SIDNEY, NE — Sidney Regional Medical Center CEO Jason Petik says the hospital has been fortunate to be running much like it was before the second wave of COVID-19.

“There’s been some not-so-good outcomes and we’ve had very good outcomes, but its allowed us to operate pretty much like we were prior to the secondary flare up,” Petik said.

Ten of the hospitals 25 beds have been set aside as a COVID-19 wing. As of Thursday, three are being used. That's not the case for every facility in the panhandle, however. Officials with Panhandle Public Health District (PPHD) said Thursday that across the panhandle, 85 people are hospitalized with COVID-19. PPHD director Kim Engel noted there are 171 staffed beds across the region, which means about 50 percent of the panhandle's beds are being used by COVID-19 patients.

Despite not being stressed like other hospitals across the state right now, Petik says they could be taxed for space soon.

“We believe, and the numbers are trending that way, that all the hospital beds may not be full with COVID patients, but all the beds will probably be occupied by Christmas time.”

Rising cases aren’t the only concern. As other hospitals fill up, SRMC is running out of options to transfer its patients. 

“We’re all going to feel the pressure across the panhandle. Even though our numbers are low now, we’re being impacted because even when we have severely sick COVID patients that we would like to transfer to higher-level care facilities, nobody’s taking those patients.” 

These factors could stretch resources like personal protective equipment (PPE) and staff. It won’t just be physically demanding, but mentally and emotionally as well. That is something the nurses have already had to endure in SRMC's one-on-one care environment.

“Unfortunately, we’ve had a few people who have passed away," Petik said. "As a caregiver, when you’re working so closely with someone who’s up and around and talking about the Huskers and a couple days later, this disease process takes them, it’s very stressful on them.”

To help slow the surge, Petik says more people need to be “not so selfish” and take precautions.

“I think the bucket full of common sense we need to use in the public at this time is masks and social distancing.”

He urged people to take this advice, especially with the holidays coming up. 

"I would certainly hate to be the individual who contracted COVID, was asymptomatic or showing minor symptoms, but pushed it off as the flu, went to a family gathering, gave it someone else and then that person died," Petik said. "That is not a far-fetched scenario. That is a very real scenario."

SRMC has been taking precautions throughout the pandemic. They recently updated their protocols for their facilities to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

The biggest change is that visitors are not allowed at this time. Clinic patients may have one support person if medically necessary. OB and end of life situations will be managed through the nursing unit. SRMC is also requiring masks be worn at all times and everyone who enters the facility must answer screening questions and have their temperature taken. 

Patients with recurring appointments are required to check in at the main entrance admissions area and should not go directly to their appointment.  

If you have been tested for COVID-19 and are awaiting results, SRMC says you should isolate at home until you know you're results. You are asked not to come to the hospital while awaiting results unless it is a life-threatening situation. 

If someone has an appointment but is symptomatic, hospital admissions will work with the provider to figure out a course of action. 

People who believe they are symptomatic in most cases be encouraged to contact the Walk-in Clinic at 610 Glover Road for assessment and testing if necessary.

COVID-19 testing through Test Nebraska is available at the Walk-in Clinic Tuesday-Thursday from 7:00-9:30 a.m. Before being tested, you must sign up at testnebraska.com to get a time to be tested. Questions about testing can be directed to the Walk-in Clinic at 308-254-4752.

Please note the video of SRMC used in this video is file footage. The trailer seen in the video is no longer located at SRMC's main facility. The trailer used for COVID-19 testing is located at the Walk-in Clinic on Glover Road.