Kari DeWitt nearly bled to death when she was pregnant with her son in 2014.
In 22 counties in Wyoming, she could have gone directly to a hospital to deliver her child. However, since she lives in Sublette County, she had to wait 45 minutes at the local clinic to get a flight to Idaho.
“I told them that I thought I needed a blood transfusion and they told me they didn’t do that at the clinic, since it wasn’t a hospital,” DeWitt told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday. “I mean, we’re in Wyoming, but this is not the 1800s, this is not the Wild West. There are basic services we need.”
Thankfully, DeWitt got her flight to Idaho and her son was delivered via C-section just an hour later. While both mother and son were healthy, DeWitt knew a change had to made in the county.
In late June, the county received approval for a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan that will pave the way, literally, for Sublette County to finally have its own hospital after 100 years without one.
A Long Time Coming
On June 24, the Sublette County Hospital District received approval for a $32.2 million USDA rural development community facilities loan, which will fund the construction of the hospital.
Dave Doorn, Sublette County Rural Health Care District administrative director, told Cowboy State Daily that in addition to the hospital, the loan will fund the construction of an updated long-term care center.
The new facilities will help prevent stories like DeWitt’s and that of SCRHD board member Dave Bell, who told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that he has also felt the painful impact of having no hospital in the county.
“About 15 years ago, I was passing a kidney stone and it turned out to be a big one,” Bell said. “The doctors here asked whether I wanted to fly or drive to Jackson. I said I didn’t want to do either, because I couldn’t afford it.”
Instead, the doctors gave Bell a shot of “something that [made] him feel good” and sent him down the road to Jackson, with his young daughter and her friend, in the middle of a snowstorm.
“That’s not a common occurrence, but it is something that’s happened to people, where they have figure out whether to drive to Jackson, take an ambulance or fly,” he said. “This hospital in the county is important, because it will alleviate many of those instances.”
The new hospital will have 10 inpatient beds, plus a pharmacy and laboratories. It will also advanced imaging capabilities, such as ultrasounds, X-rays, CT scans and mammograms.
The 50-bed long-term care facility will have a 10-bed memory care unit for patients struggling with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The hospital will be only one of two centers in western Wyoming to feature such a unit.
Sublette County currently has two clinics, one of which has an attached emergency room. However, certain amenities, such as overnight stays for care, blood transfusions and chemotherapy, have never been available in the county.
Doorn said the hospital’s groundbreaking will take place in September and from there, it will be an 18- to 24-month construction process.
“The Sublette Center is our current long-term care facility and it’s got a great reputation, but the building is 57 years old and it really needs to be replaced,” Doorn said. “So we’re getting a hospital and a new nursing home, all in one shot. We’re trying to solve two really big problems in the county to ensure those services last into the future.”