Travis Lingenfelter

Travis Lingenfelter

Mohave County hospitals are in trouble, according to local healthcare officials, with severe staffing shortages throughout the region. On Monday, the county’s governing board voted by split decision to recognize the ongoing health crisis.

The decision follows a request last month by hospital officials to declare a state of emergency, with healthcare workers stretched dangerously thin throughout the rest of Arizona. That request was denied by the Mohave County Board of Supervisors at the board’s Dec. 20 meeting, but supervisors indicated they were willing to recognize the mounting crisis. And hospital officials say that recognition – and a unified front – will be needed if local medical facilities could see relief in the near future.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, only about 42% of Mohave County residents have been inoculated against the coronavirus as of Monday. State records show that vaccinations are increasing, with almost 35,000 new doses administered since mid-October, but local health officials say recent holiday gatherings could lead to a surge in coronavirus hospitalizations this year.

The Mohave County Health Department reported 537 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Monday. More than 160 of those cases – including four deaths – occurred in the Lake Havasu City area.

According to the Arizona Hospital Association, only about 10% of intensive care beds were available statewide as of last month, with only 6% of inpatient beds available due to staffing constraints – all while the number of patients hospitalized due the coronavirus pandemic continues to grow. And according to officials from all five Mohave County hospitals, a surge in illnesses after the Christmas and New Year’s holidays could be disastrous for Mohave County residents.

Unified front needed as politics divide

Kingman Regional Medical Center CEO said last month that the impact of regional and statewide medical staffing shortages could create a dire situation for Mohave County residents – about 30% of whom are older than 60. On Monday, however, McConnell said the request for an emergency declaration by county officials may not have been an appropriate course of action.

“This entire pandemic is unfortunately causing more derision and divisiveness than unity and support,” said Kingman Regional Medical Center CEO Will McConnell at Monday’s board meeting. “As a community, and as a county, we are what’s left when this fades into the background. Our ability to maintain relationships, our ability to find common ground and work together is what’s going to allow us to come out of – whatever you want to call it – stronger and with an opportunity to move forward.”

According to McConnell, Monday’s resolution by the county’s governing board will allow local hospitals to make a stronger case for state and federal resources, with a show of support from county leadership.

“We’re trying to make the case for why Mohave County hospitals should get nurses from state and federal governments,” McConnell said. “Our ability to reference this resolution – to reference a response by the county to this community staffing crisis – can help us make a better case. We are competing against Yuma and many other locations for that relief. When we make our case for additional staffing, they’ll see that the county also sees that there’s a staffing shortage.”

After some long division, a short-term solution

Not all members of Mohave County’s governing board agreed with formal recognition of the possible crisis, however. Supervisors Hildy Angius and Travis Lingenfelter shared their views at Monday’s meeting.

“For the government to have a resolution, recognizing this as a crisis – when a lot of that crisis was caused because of government intervention – I don’t think it helps you,” Angius told McConnell.

Lingenfelter appeared to agree that a formal recognition of the crisis may have no lasting impact, but ultimately voted in favor of the resolution.

“Long-term, it doesn’t really do anything,” Lingenfelter said. “In the past two years, we’ve seen an incremental move toward authoritarianism, by a thousand little cuts.”

Western Arizona Regional Medical Center CEO Scott Street addressed the supervisors on Monday, and expressed his willingness to accept their contributions to the ongoing discussion.

“I value opinions,” Street said on Monday. “That’s the beauty of living in this country. We can be very diverse in our opinions and speak our minds. Today is about education and awareness on both sides. Finding common ground truly our goal.”

And according to Street, a long-term solution to the crisis would require collaboration in the present.

“Our healthcare workers are stretched thin,” Street said. “They’ve given their all to keep patients safe and help them heal during the relentless pandemic over the past two years. Hospitals want to be there in the event of any emergency, and we want to be able to serve any person in this room who needs healthcare.”

Havasu Regional Medical Center CEO Mike Patterson also addressed the Mohave County Board of Supervisors, via teleconference.

“Our healthcare workers have been at this for several years,” Patterson said. “There’s a lack of healthcare resources right now, not only in our bedside staff but also in our support staff as well.”

Last month, Mohave County Supervisor Ron Gould criticized hospitals’ adherence to announced vaccinations for hospital staff, made mandatory under an executive order by President Biden. The announcement led to protests at Havasu Regional Medical Center, which employs more than 700 healthcare and supporting staff.

As Biden’s orders are challenged in federal court this month, employees may continue to operate at Mohave County Hospitals without the requirement for vaccinations. If such becomes mandatory, however, Gould said at the board’s Dec. 20 meeting that staffing shortages would only become worse if opposed by employees.

McConnell said at that meeting that hospitals’ options were limited – and under the president’s order, mandatory vaccinations would be a prerequisite for participation in Medicaid. As of last month, McConnell said Medicaid accounted for 70% of total revenue at Kingman Regional Medical Center alone.

The board passed the resolution, which recognized the public health crisis due to severe staffing shortages at local hospitals, in a 3-2 vote. Gould and Angius voted against the measure.

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(12) comments

SedonaBob

The seemingly never-ending arguments about government mandates in support of public health as being some form of authoritarianism are enough to make sane people shake their heads in wonder. What is comes down to, basically is, can the government legally mandate a vaccine?

The answer - Yes, they can. The government has done so since 1904, when the right of government to impose vaccines was established by the United States Supreme Court in Jacobson v. Massachusetts. In a 7-to-2 ruling, the Court said Cambridge, Massachusetts could require all adults to be vaccinated against smallpox. Since that time, a wide range of vaccines have been developed to fight against deadly viruses and the diseases they cause. There are no laws that prohibit employers from requiring COVID-19 -- or any other -- vaccines. Similarly, schools have long been allowed to require vaccinations.

General George Washington secretly mandated vaccines for troops who were entering Philadelphia in 1776 and hadn’t yet been infected by smallpox. His actions eventually helped conquer the epidemic. American soldiers have been vaccinated since the American Revolutionary War and continue to cooperate in a vaccination routine required by the U.S. military against more than 20 diseases such as flu, tetanus and cholera.

simon1dog

SedonaBob - [thumbup] Happy New Year

Too old for this

THAT is a well written response, Big Bob. It is a better way to communicate than what the old Bob would have said. Happy New Year!

NorthLong

Yet to be seen just how long that lasts.

sportsparent

Thank you, SedonaBob!

Mohave Crone

Watched yesterday’s BOS meeting on YouTube. I feel for the hospitals here. One woman named Karen from LHC who has appeared before the BOS many times speaking out against masks, vaccines and mandates spoke during “public comment” criticizing the LHC hospital because when she was recently hospitalized there for COVID they wouldn’t give her horse dewormer as she requested, they offered her Remdesivir. How many of these people have been hospitalized for Covid or even died from it? These people are psychologically unwell and our healthcare professionals have to deal with them everyday. Then they have to go before Hildy and Ron, who have had no problem cranking out meaningless resolutions for a gun sanctuary county or against the federal govt, but instead of doing everything they can to help our medical professionals get the help they need, they blame them for this crisis created by a global pandemic and a populace unwilling to do what is necessary to protect themselves.

WendyB

Lingenfelter: “In the long term, it doesn’t’ really do anything” and “ In the past two years, we’ve seen an incremental move toward authoritarianism, by a thousand little cuts.”. Yeah, sure, I’ll vote for more of that kind of government! Either you think this is worthy of your vote or you don’t, but your contradiction (and your vote in favor of more authoritarianism) is the most telling aspect of where you stand.

shutthefrontdoor

"Gould and Angius voted against the measure." What closet did these two mental giants come from? They must have their own Fisher-Price Medical Play Doctor Toy Kit like COVID-45!

WendyB

Ad hominem attacks! Really? Is that the extent of your rhetoric? I’ve seen no contradiction in their position on government/corporate overreach. What’s your point?

1502

Why would a smart medical professional work in this area for low wages. Most young smart medical people want to work in large modern medical centers with the latest technologies.

Sonny

Then they should go to those areas and work. I left the big city and gave up a great paying job with opportunity and moved here and worked for peanuts. I worked hard and moved up to a good paying stable job here. But I was not a medical professional and I loved the hot desert and Lake Havasu, not to mention I don't have to wear a suit and tie every day[beam]. But yes, why would they want to work here in there profession.

simon1dog

Good for them! They overcame "political correctness" when it was most needed.

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