October 3, 2022 |

After overcoming a series of construction delays, the North Platte Valley Medical Center in Saratoga is nearing completion.

Last Thursday, Jeff Mincy, CEO of the Platte Valley Clinic and Saratoga Care Center, led physicians, members of the media, and others on a tour of the nearly finished facility. While some finishing work remains, most of the interior is completed. Delays in receiving necessary electrical components postponed the original August ribbon cutting. Now, Mincy says the facility will be open for business by the beginning of the new year.

Photos by Matt Copeland/Bigfoot 99.

The tour began at the climate-controlled ambulance bay. Ambulance emergency equipment will be kept at the proper temperature, even during harsh Wyoming winters. EMS can take patients into the emergency room or, if necessary, a special area to remove toxic materials. Mincy said the drainage is kept on-site.

The emergency room has two trauma bays and a procedure room with windows facing into the ER. The trauma bays are connected by a frosted glass partition that will allow doctors to move between the rooms when working on patients. Mincy described the uses for the procedure room.

The three emergency rooms have special, calming, green lighting. Mincy said the color is supposed to ease anxiety. All of the equipment in the trauma bay is duplicated so that two beds can be placed in each room if necessary. The ER waiting room has a separate space for family to have private consultations with medical staff.

The tour continued into the long-term care ward. Two wings of private rooms stretch out from a central nursing station. In order to offer private rooms, Wyoming law states there must be semi-private rooms available. There is only one two-person room in the facility.

Semi-private room in the long-term care wing at the North Platte Valley Medical Center. Photo by Matt Copeland/Bigfoot 99.

One of the wings will contain regular hospital admissions. Mincy said these beds can be used to house longer term patients if necessary.

The other wing will be the new home for residents of the Saratoga Care Center nursing home. Every room is equipped with oxygen. Mincy said staff will provide interesting activities for the residents to do.

The seniors have not seen their new home, but Mincy said they will get a tour once construction is finished in November.

Mincy and his team have planned for the hospital to grow. They designed the kitchen to be capable of feeding more people than needed. Initially, the kitchen will only serve patients. They would like to allow staff and patient’s families to also eat when they have an idea of how many patients the hospital will treat. Safety is important. Mincy said the kitchen’s fire suppression system is fully automated.

Mincy said the nursing station is large enough to accommodate more staff if necessary. It includes a Pyxis MedStation, an automated dispensing system that uses barcode technology to ensure patients receive accurate dosages of prescribed medications. Security is also a concern. The Pyxis will prevent theft of controlled substances. Mincy described how the system operates.

The tour moved into the radiology department. Through $500,000 worth of donations, the NPVMC was able to purchase a 64-slice computed tomography, or CT, scanner. Using a series of X-rays taken from different angles, the CT scanner can create a detailed image of a patient’s insides. Sixty-four image slices is the industry standard, but the scanner can be upgraded to double its resolution.

Mincy described other diagnostic procedures the hospital will provide.

Women’s health is a focus at the NPVMC. Mincy said they will have a DEXA scanner, used to measure bone density.

The hospital will also have an X-ray machine capable of displaying a continuous, real-time image of the patient. Known as fluoroscopy, Mincy said having those capabilities will be very helpful for treating patients.

Information gathered by the diagnostic machinery is sent to every computer in the hospital. Using advanced AI technology from Viz.AI, especially severe cases are automatically flagged for immediate treatment.

At the time of the tour, none of the equipment was assembled.

The NPVMC will have a comprehensive laboratory. The lab equipment was purchased about a year ago using SLIB funding and donations. Everything is currently set up in the Platte Valley Clinic, but will be moved to the hospital in January.

Laboratory facilities at the North Platte Valley Medical Center. Photo by Matt Copeland/Bigfoot 99.

The laboratory will have the ability to analyze blood chemistry and take immunoassay tests. Mincy described the benefit of having this equipment.

A high-tech blood cell analyzer will save time when diagnosing cancer. A microbiology analyzer will cut down the amount of time needed to find the correct antibiotic, from 48 hours to 18. Mincy said this machine is an important tool against the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

South Central Wyoming EMS will provide ground ambulance service to the hospital. Using Shively Field, helicopter ambulances will transport serious cases. If helicopters are unable to fly due to poor weather, Mincy said transport planes will still be able to land at the airport.

Mincy said the hospital is looking into a system that will allow ambulances to transmit patient’s vital information while en route. Memorial Hospital of Carbon County in Rawlins has a similar system.

Mincy emphasized the importance of partnering with a wide variety of specialists. The goal of the NPVMC is to bring treatment closer to home for area residents, such as nephrologists who treat kidney diseases.

Having a home dialysis program will prevent people from having to travel out of the area for treatment. Hours, or even days, can be saved by having it available here.

The tour continued into the physical therapy room. With an amazing view of the Snowy Range, patients will work to rehabilitate after a stroke or other medical issue. The room is equipped with a fully functional kitchen to help patients work on building skills that will allow them to safely return home.

The physical therapy room at the North Platte Valley Medical Center will have a view of the Snowy Range. Photo by Matt Copeland/Bigfoot 99.

When the hospital opens next year, the Platte Valley Clinic will be moved into the facility. Doctor Brenden Fitzsimmons will join the staff as a senior medical officer. Ruby Ayres will remain on as nurse practitioner. Anyone familiar with the clinic will know about the gnomes painted by Saratoga resident, John Gilman. They will be moved into the new facility too.

One thing the NPVMC will not have is an MRI. Mincy said that it was too costly. A mobile MRI truck can be brought in when necessary. Outside, there a place for them to plug into the building. Mincy explains how the process will work.

Staffing such a large facility presents a challenge for Mincy and his group. Mincy said that 40 of the anticipated 68 employees already live in the area. When word got out about a lack of housing, Mincy said the community reached out to help.

Mincy and his team are confident that Saratoga’s schools and other infrastructure will be able to handle the influx of people.

Specialists are eager to partner with the NPVMC to provide medical care in the region. Mincy acknowledged that the hospital won’t be able to handle every medical need, but said there is a huge benefit to having care close by.

Mincy said the hospital is estimated to have three to five ER visits a day, a number he believes to be far too low. Time will tell how successful the hospital will be, but people seem excited by having emergency care so close to home. The North Platte Valley Medical Center, complete with long-term care center, and the Platte Valley Clinic, will open sometime in early January.

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