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Cheyenne Regional Medical Center

Former Cheyenne Hospital Employee Accessed Records Of 1,600 Patients

in News/Health care
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A former Cheyenne Regional Medical Center employee improperly accessed the records of about 1,600 patients over nearly two years, the hospital’s compliance director told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday.

A recent internal investigation found that the former employee patients’ personal health records without permission between Aug. 31, 2020 and May 26, 2022, CRMC compliance director Gladys Ayokosok said on Wednesday.

“As far as HIPAA rules go, even if nothing serious happened when she accessed the information, if there is a disclosure where records access is not authorized, we’re required by federal law to send notices to the impacted patients and inform the community through various channels,” Ayokosok said.

HIPAA is the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a federal law which prohibits the release of patients’ health information without their consent.

Ayokosok said there was no indication the information from the files was shared with anyone outside the hospital.

The former employee did have permission to access to the hospital’s electronic health records system, however, the viewing of certain medical records was outside of her job scope.

Information in the health records included names, dates of birth, social security numbers, dates of care, medical record numbers, diagnoses and treatments.

The woman was able to access records for such a long time because she previously worked with the records provider, Ayokosok said.

“Sometimes you can go into the records by accident, so it just went on for some time without anybody noticing until we finally got a report,” she said.

Ayokosok said that certain employees have access to patient records, but despite this, there might be instances where they should not be looking through records.

“Right now, our IT team has created an audit trail, so we can (track) if an employee has accessed records more than the normal amount of times,” she said. “Now, the team can see why they’re actually in those records, making sure they’re accessing it based on job requirements and not snooping.”

The woman was reported by a fellow CRMC employee after she transferred to a different department within the medical center. Ayokosok said CRMC officials immediately took action when it was discovered she had been looking through records.

However, she did note that despite the woman looking at the records, it does not appear that she stole or attempted to steal patients’ information.

While she cannot rule out another employee potentially accessing patient records, Ayokosok said that this situation is an example for all employees to learn from.

The hospital will soon mail letters to the approximately 1,600 patients whose information was compromised.

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Laramie County Health Director Says Booster Keeps People Out of Hospital For Covid

in News/Coronavirus
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Getting a booster dose of the COVID vaccine seems to make all the difference when it comes to COVID infections and related hospitalizations, according to the Laramie County Health Department’s executive director.

As was the case last week, Cheyenne Regional Medical Center has more vaccinated people hospitalized than non-vaccinated. However, county Health Department Director Kathy Emmons questioned if patients designated as being “fully vaccinated” had received a booster shot.

“There is a difference between people who have gotten the vaccine and those who have gotten the vaccine and booster,” Emmons said.

Of the 43 patients hospitalized Monday at CRMC, 26 were considered fully vaccinated. However, only three of those vaccinated had received the booster shot, hospital spokeswoman Kathy Baker told Cowboy State Daily.

“Only three of the Covid positive patients that we are currently treating have received their booster shot,” she said. “And the ages of the patients at CRMC who are COVID positive range from 21 to 91 years, so people of all ages are still being hospitalized because of the virus.”

Of the three patients in the hospital’s intensive care unit, two were fully vaccinated, and one was not.

Additionally, of the three deaths the hospital saw over the last week of the month, two were fully vaccinated and one was not.

However, no one was on a ventilator, vaccinated or not.

Echoing comments by Wyoming State Public Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist, Emmons said with the Omicron variant, patients tend to be sick for shorter periods of time and seem to experience much milder symptoms, especially if they are fully vaccinated and boosted.

“It appears that the people who are hospitalized now are much different than those who were hospitalized three months ago, because with the Delta variant, people would be in the hospital for quite a long time,” Emmons said. “They were there for weeks, if not months, and would be on ventilators. But it is important to note that now, we’re seeing a lot of positive cases, but they’re nowhere near as sick as with the Delta variant.”

Anecdotally and statistically, Emmons said that people are less likely to catch COVID if they have been fully vaccinated and received a booster shot. She noted that it is possible for someone to have received all doses of the vaccine and still catch the virus, but they are becoming infected at lesser rates than people who have received all of their vaccine doses, but not a booster.

“We strongly encourage people to get their vaccinations and to not forget that booster,” she said.

As of Monday, 165 patients across the state were hospitalized due to COVID.

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Cheyenne Hospital Seeing “Unprecedented” Surge In Patients

in News/Coronavirus
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Cheyenne’s hospital is seeing an “unprecedented” surge in patients, its CEO announced on Monday.

According to Cheyenne Regional Medical Center CEO Tim Thornell, the surge is due to people in the Cheyenne area experiencing a number of illnesses and emergencies, from COVID-19 and heart attacks to complications from diabetes and other issues.

Due to the surge, the hospital’s staff is housing and caring for patients in the hospital’s emergency department until an inpatient room becomes available, delaying the move of some patients into regular rooms.

Thornell said that last Thursday, the hospital had more than 20 patients who were being housed in the emergency department until they could be admitted to the hospital’s inpatient units.

As of Monday morning, the number of patients waiting for an inpatient room had declined to 11.

“To address this situation, CRMC has contingency plans that allow us to surge beyond our normal capacity. Those plans were put into effect late last week,” Thornell said.

The hospital had 41 coronavirus patients hospitalized as of Monday, according to a social media post, 35 of whom had not been vaccinated for COVID. Hospital staff share daily updates of how many people are at CRMC.

Patients with less serious conditions have also seen their wait times for emergency department care increased, Thornell said.

“We anticipate this situation will be short lived; however, we are cautiously planning for an extended period,” he said. “We are sharing this news so that our community understands why emergency wait times are increasing and why inpatient rooms are not readily available.”

He also noted that the current limits on inpatient rooms are due largely to staffing isuses, not ongoing constrution at the hospital.

“Despite these tremendous challenges, our employees and providers are working 24/7 to ensure that everyone who comes to us receives an appropriate level of care,” Thornell said. “We continue to emphasize that anyone experiencing signs or symptoms of a heart attack, stroke or any other medical emergency please call 911 right away; do not delay getting emergency help.”

He added that delaying care could result in a worsening condition that might require more intensive treatment or adverse outcomes.

“We understand that this current situation is alarming. But we believe it’s important that we are transparent about what is happening and why,” Thornell concluded. “Please know that no matter the circumstances, we continue to be here for our community.”

According to the Wyoming COVID hospitalization tracker, 172 people were hospitalized due to the virus across the state Monday.

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Cheyenne Hospital Implementing Photo ID Policy To Keep Visitors From Flouting Rules

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Cheyenne’s hospital will soon implement a new photo identification policy for visitors to keep people from disobeying a rule limiting the number of people who visit patients.

Cheyenne Regional Medical Center will soon require all visitors to present a physical, government-issued photo identification at its screening desk before being allowed to enter the hospital. The new policy will be implemented on Sept. 20.

“Cheyenne Regional Medical Center is currently experiencing a tremendous spike in COVID-19 patients, and our community continues to be at high risk for the transmission of COVID,” hospital president and CEO Tim Thornell told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. “Whereas many hospitals across the state and across the nation have reduced the number of visitors permitted per patient, we have elected to not make such a reduction and instead maintain the amount of visitors a patient may have. Adding a validation process requiring photo IDs for visitors helps ensure patients’ selected visitors are allowed access while appropriately controlling hospital access to ensure the safety of all patients and staff.”

The new requirement will allow hospital screeners to verify the identify of visitors and ensure that the hospital’s limit of two visitors per non-COVID patient is being followed.

“Due to the ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, several hospitals and health systems in our state and region are no longer allowing any visitors or are only allowing one designated visitor per non-COVID-19 patient,” the hospital said in a social media post. “Our goal is to keep CRMC’s current visitor policy in place while also ensuring the safety and well-being of our patients, employees and providers.”

Visitors who don’t have a photo ID and aren’t on the designated visitor list will not be allowed to enter the hospital.

This new policy received a mix of responses on social media, with some praising the hospital for making this move and others criticizing hospital officials for the decision.

“CRMC is a horrible hospital and this is the stupidest thing they have come up with,” commenter Rebecca Sue wrote. “I have had several family members there recently and the hospital does not do adequate care. 2 visitors the entire stay is ridiculous. Patients need their family and the lov[e] and support and to know they are not alone!!!!”

“Can you stop all of us????” commenter Justin Hawkins wrote.

“Thank you for keeping everyone safe in these difficult times. Better to be cautious than sorry,” commenter Diane Wolski wrote.

Cheyenne Regional Medical Center has had the most COVID patients in the state over the last couple of weeks, usually around 50 patients at one time, meaning its intensive care unit is near to capacity.

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Cheyenne Physician Appears In Golden Globes Sketch With Tina Fey

in News/Good news
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Cheyenne physician got the chance to virtually rub elbows with celebrities on Sunday night when she appeared in a Golden Globes sketch alongside comedian/actress Tina Fey.

Dr. Danille Prime , who works in pulmonary medicine at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, got the opportunity to appear in a virtual sketch with other real doctors who were “treating” various celebrities for fake diseases.

“Good evening doctor, I just wanted to thank you for the phenomenal work you’ve done during this terrible pandemic,” Fey, speaking in a silly British accent, told Prime over a “telehealth” session.

“You sound terrible,” Prime told the Golden Globes co-host, looking concerned.

Fey responded that she felt fine, although her voice was sounding strange.

“I think you have Thatcher,” Prime concluded, meaning that Fey sounded like former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who was portrayed by Gillian Anderson in “The Crown,” one of the night’s nominees.

Doctors from all over the nation were included in the sketch, treating celebrities such as “Hamilton” star and creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and actresses Glenn Close and Carey Mulligan.

Much of the Sunday night ceremony was dedicated to frontline health workers, as the significantly smaller-than-usual crowd at the event wasn’t made up of celebrities, but first responders.

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