St. Anthony hospital CEO addresses lack of testing in Summit County, announces daily testing clinic
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with information about the hospital’s daily testing clinic.
BRECKENRIDGE — At the Breckenridge Town Council meeting Tuesday night, St. Anthony Summit Medical Center CEO Lee Boyles addressed the lack of testing for the new coronavirus in Summit County and subsequent aid from Vail Health.
The meeting was tense as council members were skeptical of the hospital’s efforts, with one council member calling Centura’s performance “subpar.” Mayor Eric Mamula said the council had prepared a letter to Centura, which owns the local hospital, expressing frustrations about testing.
Boyles said that since the beginning of the outbreak, St. Anthony has been preparing for the worst. He said the hospital has “held steady” through the pandemic, never becoming overwhelmed.
“We’ve always had the staff and, thank God, the (personal protective equipment) and supplies to take care of anybody who hits our doors or be able to handle those surges, which we just haven’t seen,” Boyles said.
As of Tuesday, the hospital had tested 81 patients who have come into the emergency department, 32 of which have tested positive for the new coronavirus. He said 16 of the 81 patients who were tested were transferred to Denver-area hospitals. Of those 16, nine tested positive.
He noted that transfers to Denver-area hospitals are done because the novel coronavirus is a respiratory illness, and it’s in the patients’ best interest to be cared for at an elevation lower than 9,000 feet. He said the nine COVID-19 patients who were transferred required ventilation but did “extremely well” once they got to a lower elevation.
As for coronavirus testing, Boyles said the hospital always has followed state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention testing guidelines. He added that the hospital always has had the ability to test frontline workers and first responders.
“We’ve also conserved those tests knowing that if we ever did get a surge or we ever became overwhelmed, we’re going to need tests in hand to start testing people,” Boyles said. “So I think that’s been our main prerogative of we’ve prepared for the worst, that has not come, and now we’re in a situation where the testing is kind of flipped to now we need this mass testing throughout the community.”
- Positive: 146
- Hospitalized: 41
- Deaths: 2
Source: Summit County Public Health
- Positive: 15,284
- Hospitalized: 2,697
- Deaths: 777
Updated at 2:30 p.m. May 1.
Until now, Boyles said the hospital has not had the capability to perform mass testing.
Council member Jeffrey Bergeron noted that Eagle County has tested more than 2,000 people whereas Summit County has tested about 300 people.
“I don’t understand why St. Anthony of Centura can’t get ahold of tests,” Bergeron said. “Is Vail Health that much more powerful in the market?”
Boyles said he does not know why Vail Health has so much more testing capacity. He said Vail Health is using a saline flush test, which the Summit Community Care Clinic also uses, while St. Anthony’s has stuck with the swab test.
“I cannot tell you how Vail Health has that many tests,” Boyles said. “I cannot tell you the quality of those tests, what medium they’re using or anything else. All I know is what we have secured as far as testing is the best quality tests we can get our hands on.”
Boyles said St. Anthony now has the ability to test anyone who is symptomatic. Starting Wednesday, the hospital opened a testing clinic in the Vista Professional Building by Summit Middle School that he said likely will test 20-30 people per day. The center will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to noon on weekends, St. Anthony spokesman Brent Boyer confirmed Wednesday night.
The Stadium Medical mobile clinic also will continue to operate.
Council member Gary Gallagher said he was more interested in discussing ways to move forward with the economy rather than what St. Anthony has done.
“We all know in order to responsibly move from phase one to phase two from an economic point of view, we’ve got to be able to start testing much more broadly,” Gallagher said.
Gallagher went on to express his frustrations with the hospital.
“Centura is going to bury this economy,” Gallagher said. “… It’s going to get very hard for the businesses here in Breckenridge. I don’t think you guys are doing enough, and I think it’s really going to hurt your fundraising ability going forward because I think the performance of Centura today within Summit County has been subpar.”
Council member Dick Carleton shared concerns he has heard from community members that some people who have had severe symptoms have not been tested. Boyles said the hospital has tested anyone who is symptomatic for the past one to two weeks, but Carleton countered that he knows an individual who is symptomatic and was referred to the mobile clinic, but three days later has not been tested.
Dennis Kuhn, a new council member who was sworn in Tuesday, asked Boyles what Centura could do to be a good partner to Summit County in addition to opening up the new testing center.
Boyles said mass testing is the best way the hospital can help, but he said he doesn’t think that testing beyond symptomatic patients would be a good use of resources. He said he believes recommendations like social distancing and facial coverings have worked, and he noted that physicians in Denver are studying antibody testing, which he said would be a “game changer.”
Council members also discussed the reopening of the county. Mamula said he thinks the county is in a good place, but he said he is fearful of day-trippers from the Front Range spreading the virus.
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