LUSK – In the midst of the continual changes brought on by COVID-19 for hospitals, clinics and health care workers the Niobrara Community Hospital has been on the forefront of those changes and worked hard to be proactive in the responses to the coronavirus.
Now another change will be coming down the line for the district, the part-time CEO, part-time Chief Nursing Officer and full-time Director of Nursing are all stepping down from their roles at NCH.
CEO Nathan Hough was employed through HMS, the contract group that manages the Niobrara Community Hospital facilities including the Rawhide Rural Health Clinic. Hough has accepted the CEO position at Chadron Hospital and will be leaving not only NCH but HMS. Chief Nursing officer Amber Ondriezak will be relinquishing her role as CNO and returning to Sundance full time. Ondriezak will continue to be employed by the hospital district to assist with data entry and some remote responsibilities. Director of Nursing Melanie Woodall will be leaving NCH to pursue an advanced degree.
The good news for Niobrara county, according to board chairman Mark Groh, is that Hough and Ondriezak have agreed to be available to the hospital district as resources for knowledge and consultation. HMS will continue to provide upper management staff to the hospital and Kody Nelson will be staying in his role as Chief Operating Officer. Action is already being taken to fill Woodall’s position at the hospital.
Groh emphasized that none of these changes will impact the quality or availability of care at NCH and Rawhide Rural Health Clinic. He wants to reassure the community that these changes are not the result of any misconduct, discipline or conflict. The board has communicated to HMS that they are focused on maintaining continuity of business and care operations and that retaining Nelson as the COO is a key part of this
When speaking with the Herald, Groh also wanted to communicate that the hospital and clinic continue to be open for business as usual. Patients should continue to come to the clinic for their standard primary care and urgent care needs. The hospital has made significant changes to the entry ways and how patients are intake processed to ensure that both patients and staff are kept as safe as possible.
NCH was one of the first hospitals to begin making both policy and care environment changes to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It has been used as an example by the state for what other rural hospitals can do in response to the pandemic.
Avoiding seeking care either on a scheduled basis for lifestyle or chronic disease, or for illness is not necessary and can lead to additional complications that will create a need for more intense care and potential hospitalization. Patients should continue to access the clinic and hospital as needed.
At this time visit volumes for the clinic are down and this will be reflected in the financial reports over the next 30, 60 and 90 days. Without a change in those volumes the district will begin to see some financial constraints develop. Patients with concerns about coming to the hospital or clinic should contact their provider to discuss those concerns.