The Haxtun-Fleming Herald - What can we reason but from what we know? -Alexander Pope

By Candie Fix
Managing Editor 

Mask guidelines change following CDPHE visit


November 3, 2021

A recent visit from the Colorado Department of Public Health has changed mask wearing guidelines at Haxtun Health. According to information presented by Chief Executive Officer Dewane Pace at the October month-end meeting, the visit primarily focused on infection control due to the pandemic.

Pace told board members in a Monday night, Oct. 25 meeting that while the visit mainly focused on infection control, the primary area of concern pertained to the use of masks in the facility.

“We have remedied the State’s primary concern by implementing a mask policy for anyone entering and visiting our campus,” Pace said. “This masks policy is in place for everyone, regardless of vaccination status.”

Prior to the recent visit from CDPHE, Haxtun Health’s mask policy allowed those who have been fully vaccinated to go in without masks, including staff and visitors.

“We are asking our community members to abide by our mask policy while in our facilities,” Pace said.

At the start of his report, Pace told board members about the receipt of a grant from the State of Colorado. He said Haxtun Health was recently awarded the Health Resources and Services Administration grant, which provides a four-year engagement with the Center for Optimizing Rural Health from Texas A&M. Haxtun Health was the only hospital in the State of Colorado to receive the grant.

“The team at Texas A&M specializes in providing in-depth assistance for Critical Access Hospitals across the country and includes educational and consultative offerings for multiple areas such as revenue cycle, recruitment, board education, marketing, leadership training, financial analysis and much more,” Pace said. “This is similar to what many hospitals do when they hire a team of consultants to help with improving operations.”

The grant is the equivalent to an $800,000 consultant engagement, at no cost to the hospital.

Pace also touched on the recent purchase of several new pieces of equipment. He said with assistance from the Haxtun Health Foundation, the clinics will now be furnished with new EKG machines. The machines, he said, allow medical staff to perform electrocardiogram testing in the clinic during a visit.

Additionally, the facility purchased an audiometer for commercial driver’s license testing and a diabetic retinopathy machine. The DT is a high-resolution retinal imagine machine for performing examinations for diabetic retinopathy – the most common eye problem caused by diabetes.

“We continue to add more high-tech equipment and services to Haxtun Health so that patients can receive advanced healthcare close to home,” said Pace.

Haxtun Health also purchased a wheelchair-accessible van. Pace said the acquisition was made possible thanks to a member of the community that no longer had a need for the vehicle and offered to let the hospital purchase it for a reasonable amount.

“We will now be more readily and easily able to transport wheelchair patients to appointments outside of our facility,” he added.

In his Chief of Staff report, Dr. Ben Stephenson gave an update on local COVID numbers. “The number of cases that we’ve seen remains steady from last month, with one inpatient admission,” Stephensen said. “Since last month, none of the positive cases were critically ill enough to require transfer to a higher level of care.”

He said in regards to the COVID booster shots, the FDA recently approved the administration of boosters for Moderna; both Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson boosters have already been approved. Stephenson said the Pfizer and Moderna boosters can be administered at least six months following the primary services, while the Johnson and Johnson booster is able to be administered two months after the primary regimen completion.

The FDA, he said, has approved mixing and matching booster shots, although they’ve tried to stay as uniform as possible until this point. The FDA is currently working on guidelines to further refine the issue, Stephenson added.

The local doctor said inpatient census continued to be high throughout the month of October. The medical staff, he said, has been with nursing staff to work on a surge plan in the case of needing to admit patients beyond current capacity.

“The predominant challenge with this issue continues to be limited nursing staff,” Stephenson said. “The key to avoid issues during times during high capacity will be constant communication between nursing and providers regarding patient status.”

Chief Nursing Officer Lea White echoed Dr. Stephenson’s statements pertaining to staffing.

She said herself and Director of Nursing Jessie Cochran are assisting to help cover shifts, however, at this time, Haxtun Health is currently seeking two full-time night shift registered nurses and one day-time RN position.

“Staffing is becoming increasingly challenging with vaccine mandates and healthcare burnout,” White said. “Incentives are being offered for other staff to pick up extra shifts, as well.”


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