Bill Sniffin: Quality Medical Care Is Essential, Especially When Sickness Strikes

Bill Sniffin writes: “After initial consults and my wife Nancy being wired with a portable harness (that sent medical signals somewhere) she was placed on a bed in a hallway of the hospital and I was issued a chair next to her. We stayed there for the next 22 hours!"

Bill Sniffin

April 06, 20245 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Medical people are miracle workers.

And the good ones are in short supply, not only in Wyoming, but all over America.

We had some personal experience with this situation recently, but first let’s look at how many places in Wyoming are often considered medical deserts.

Because of our vast distances, there are isolated places where people can find themselves in big trouble with medical circumstances that would be treated in a routine manner in larger cities. Places like Casper, Cheyenne, Rock Springs, Gillette, Sheridan, Jackson, Laramie and other cities and towns seem to have adequate facilities to serve their local populations.

In places like Pinedale, Lusk, Saratoga, Lyman-Mountain View, Hulett, Dubois and Baggs, getting to more sophisticated medical facilities in a timely manner can be frightening.

And besides, long distances, weather and bad roads are always interfering with Wyoming people getting to medical attention in time.

And then there are places like Riverton where local folks rebelled in frustration over cutbacks from their local for-profit hospital. With $54 million donated, borrowed and gotten from grants, they are going to build a new hospital to compete with the longtime existing one.

Wyoming sees amazing amounts of medical service leakage to regional centers in Denver, Salt Lake City, Idaho Falls, Billings and Rapid City.

Not sure how to prevent that, but the travel out of state by our patients is not good economic news for the state. But you cannot blame people for seeking the best care they can get as close to home as possible.

Our Recent Experience

And then there are medical mishaps that happen when you travel.

As I write this, my wife Nancy is in a Las Vegas hospital, dealing with a urinary tract infection with some serious complications. She is on the mend, but wow, what an experience.

Vegas has outstanding medical facilities. Nancy had spent some time last fall at the 850-bed Sunrise Hospital, so when a Vegas urgent care suggested she go to the ER last week, we headed back to Sunrise.

The waiting room was about 10% full so I was confident she would be treated quickly.

After initial consults and her being wired with a portable harness (that sent medical signals somewhere) she was placed on a bed in a hallway and I was issued a chair next to her.

We stayed there for the next 22 hours!

At the age of 78 and Nancy at 77, who would have thought we could go through such an experience at our ages and in this day and age?

Unless you are Wayne Newton or the mayor of Vegas, I was told this happens to everyone who goes to the ER in Sin City.

Besides the national shortage of medical people and medical facilities, the root cause of the Vegas troubles was the recent closure of a big local hospital, for some reason, which created havoc everywhere else.

But 22 hours sounds like a third-world country. They did monitor her in the hall and tried to do their best.

It makes me appreciate our local medical facilities in Lander, which have been extraordinary for over 50 years. In recent years, though, even that hospital has shown a remarkable decline in medical services.

Lots Of Crazy Stuff

During our long stay in the hallway at the ER, saw lots of crazy things that you do not see back in Wyoming. We were fairly close to an area they called The Looney Bin, which is their drunk tank. They said it was amazing how many people are brought to the ER late at night drunk or in trouble because of drugs.

A cop named Barney (yes, he said Barney!) said it is almost countless the number of young girls he had seen come in who were given drugs slipped into their “free drinks.” He said often the girls are raped. Do not accept free drinks, he urged.

We had ambulance drivers coming in one entrance who looked professional. But the helicopter EMT guys came in from the other side and they had a special kind of swagger. Their uniforms even looked more spiffy, and they strutted while they walked in, I swear.

All day and night, loud helicopter noises were overhead as they brought in people from all over the region.

We had an interesting conversation with a nurse who had recently moved to America from Brazil.

She said what she loved the most about the USA is that folks are so polite (especially the older ones), it is safe, and “if you work hard, you can really get ahead.”

At least there is some recognition of our amazing entrepreneur society here in this country.

Once we left the ER hallway and got to a room, our medical care was excellent.

Our close-call, though, just brought into the focus to us about the constant need for Wyoming folks to continue to improve the quality and quantity of medical care here. The state has the money to kickstart such an improvement in these kinds of services. Go for it.

Bill Sniffin can be reached at:

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Bill Sniffin

Wyoming Life Columnist

Columnist, author, and journalist Bill Sniffin writes about Wyoming life on Cowboy State Daily -- the state's most-read news publication.