The radiology technician slept in an RV within the parking zone of his rural Kansas hospital for greater than per week as a result of his co-workers had been out sick with COVID-19 and nobody else was obtainable to take X-rays.
A health care provider and doctor assistant examined optimistic on the identical day in November, briefly leaving the hospital with out anybody who may write prescriptions or oversee affected person care. The hospital is full, however diverting sufferers is not an possibility as a result of surrounding medical facilities are overwhelmed.
The scenario at Rush County Memorial Hospital in La Crosse illustrates the depths of the COVID-19 disaster in rural America at a time when the virus is killing greater than 2,000 folks a day and inundating hospitals.
The virus is sidelining nurses, docs and medical employees nationwide, however the issue is especially dire in rural communities like La Crosse as a result of they do not have a lot of a bullpen – or many locations to ship sufferers with regional hospitals full.
The employees shortages have compelled folks like Eric Lewallen, a Gulf Warfare veteran and alfalfa farmer who moonlights as a radiology technician, to mount a final line of protection. To maintain the hospital open, he had no selection however to start out residing in his RV within the parking zone as a result of he wanted to be on web site as the one remaining wholesome staffer to carry out X-rays.
“I am it,” Lewallen stated shortly after begging the hospital laundry employees to start out washing his scrubs as a result of he had run out of fresh ones.
“To maintain a essential entry hospital open, you need to have X-ray and lab functioning,” he stated. “If a kind of go down, you go on diversion and also you lose your ER at that time. We do not need that to occur, particularly for the neighborhood.”
La Crosse, a city of 1,300 those that dubs itself because the “Barbed Wire Capital of the World” and is residence to barbed wire museum, is like many small cities battling the virus. Case numbers have soared, there’s an outbreak on the nursing residence, and its county has opted out of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s newest masks mandate.
And there are few bigger medical facilities to ship its sickest sufferers with the remainder of the area additionally overrun by the virus.
The bigger Hays Medical Heart, which is simply 25 miles away from La Crosse, was at all times prepared to take sufferers that wanted extra superior care prior to now. However it turned away 103 transfers in November alone. Within the 14 years prior, it had rejected transfers simply twice, stated Dr. Heather Harris, the medical director there.
Doctor assistant Kai Englert was capable of fill in for six days at La Crosse, overseeing a number of COVID-19 sufferers, considered one of whom died after no bigger hospital would take the affected person. The La Crosse hospital does not have a ventilator and the oxygen it offered wasn’t enough with the affected person’s “chest filled with COVID.” However Englert doubts extra superior would have made a lot distinction as a result of the affected person was so sick.
He stated the message from giant hospitals is: “We aren’t going to waste a mattress on somebody who’s going to die anyway. They will die in a small city and that’s the unhappy actuality of the scenario.”
In November, the hospital needed to shut its connected clinic and switch to a brief staffing company to maintain the emergency room open after the physician and doctor assistant examined optimistic for the virus on the identical day. The nurse practitioner was additionally out on medical depart. At present, an authorized nursing assistant is quarantining, and not less than two different nurses examined optimistic beforehand.
The physician and doctor assistant returned Thursday after ending their quarantine and had been swamped with a backlog of sufferers.
Michael Cooper, the hospital’s CEO, stated it was a stroke of luck that he may discover anybody to fill in whereas they had been gone given the extent of pressure on the state’s hospitals. In accordance with the Kansas Hospital Affiliation, 42% of them are reporting staffing shortages.
“You undergo your contingency plans and at the back of your thoughts you might be considering, ‘I’m going to must go on diversion and discover a mattress for these sufferers in a time the place there aren’t any beds to be discovered anyplace within the state,'” he stated. “That’s the disaster that I used to be actually involved about. If I can not discover a supplier that may test on these sufferers then I’m going to must eliminate these sufferers. And there’s no the place to ship them.”
Cooper stated he wish to have extra nurses, too, due to the quantity of sufferers the hospital is treating, however staffing businesses are charging $140 to $240 an hour. “That’s greater than I pay my physician.” As a substitute he’s encouraging time beyond regulation, which is up about 20 or 25%.
A few of the nurses took him up on the supply, working per week straight because the virus surges within the county of three,300 residents.
“We simply form of piece it collectively,” stated Jolene Morgan, a registered nurse who suspects she contracted the sickness in September. She quarantined for 14 days, though she was by no means examined.
Lewallen, the radiology technician, acknowledges it would worsen however stated everyone seems to be working exhausting from the the kitchen and laundry employees to the nurses. The veteran attempting to maintain the right perspective after his expertise within the navy.
“It is not like anybody capturing at us or something, so I’m assured we’ll get by way of it alright. It is going to simply be a troublesome spell for awhile,” he stated.