Thursday, November 05, 2020

As covid-19 patients fill larger hospitals, small hospitals must care for critically ill patients, and that's not for the best

The coronavirus pandemic is disproportionately hitting rural areas, but cases are still rising in many metropolitan areas. That means trouble for many small, rural hospitals. 

Hemphill County, Texas
(Wikipedia map)
In Hemphill County, Texas, pop. 3,807, seriously ill patients are usually transferred from Hemphill County Hospital to a larger, better-equipped hospital in Amarillo, Lubbock or Dallas. But these days, many of those hospitals are full largely because of covid-19, so critically ill patients must remain at HCH, which lacks the staffing and equipment to fully care for them, writes Laurie Ezzell Brown, editor and publisher of The Canadian Record in the county seat of Canadian (named for the Canadian River).

Hospital Chief of Staff Tony Cook said the hospital tells covid-19 patients: "We will do what we can do . . . but you will not get the standard of care you may need." He speculated that non-covid patients may have died, and will continue to do so, because the hospital was swamped with covid patients.

Hospital staff are doing what they can to prepare for the worsening pandemic. They've improvised an covod ward by draping off a hallway with plastic curtains. "They have supplemented two old ventilators with new ones, which they hope to be trained to use next week," Brown reports. "They have also ordered high-flow nasal oxygen for use in treating covid patients." The hospital has also acquired four temporary nurses to provide relief to the exhausted staff. 

"I just don't think people understand how bad it really is," Cook told Brown. "This is a critical situation. . . . People are going to die. That is the bottom line."

Brown wonders why people don't understand the seriousness of the situation by now: "Maybe all they need to do is imagine being wheeled on a gurney through those plastic curtains into the improvised covid unit at Hemphill County Hospital, because there's nowhere else to go to get the care they need."

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