'Though the virus hadn't yet reached us, it was already our enemy'
Friday, July 3, 2020 -- With cases COVID-19 on the rise, a rural hospital braces for an outbreak while trying to stave off financial ruin.
One of the difficulties in a small rural hospital is we don't have a lot of resource is we have to ventilators and four anesthesia machines. If we had six or more critically ill covered patients, we would be overwhelmed. We don't have the equipment to be able to support that many severely sick patients. That's why it's so scary for rural hospitals, our county as about 15,000 people. But we have another 33,000 people that go through here every day on the interstate, and I'm gonna have to go get one of them to bring me another test, and we'll go ahead and do it while you're here. Okay, we deliver the test to Snyder, which is 40 miles away. They drive them to Lubbock, which is another 100 miles, or they could be flown to a lab in Austin. Sometimes we have test results in seven days. Very spotty, very unpredictable. I just dropped two specimens off. I got to go print labels. For one. We've had four positive patients in our county. The most troubling piece to May is to know that it's probably still coming. Nearly 2/3 of rural counties are reporting outbreaks of covert 19 in little bitty hospitals that a hot spot will pop up, and one week they have no patience, and the next week they have 300 positives. Real hospitals are at a disadvantage were all barely hanging on by a thread. Rural hospitals are facing a different kind of crisis, which is how to financially survive during the pandemic as they shut down elective surgeries out of an abundance of caution. Another month or two of that, that would be unsustainable. We have another rule hospital closing this week. How far do we let the economy suffer for protection? And how far do we let protection suffer for the economy? Today, I'm issuing an executive that outlines how we go about opening the Texas economy, and I know that's a difficult decision that we individually you're having to make. People were ready to get out and grab a drink, and there are hospitals having to make and that our countries having to make 20 states reporting increases in new cases tonight. Texas reporting its largest single day in cases ever. Though the virus hadn't yet reached us, it was already our enemy. It is concerning that as we start opening back up that people just quit self distancing. And then it does get in our nursing homes. How are you? Get your phone so we can talk. You're doing OK? Yeah, OK. No carry. I love you. Have you? I'll be there every day at her window until I can get my hands on her. I have a concern that she would die alone. Um, I know that many people in the country have done alone. Back in March, we decided to forgo all elective procedures before we were required to do so in order to save lives. Typically 10 oclock on a Monday. Usually the CR would be full. It's sort of a curse than a blessing. A large portion of our income is generated from surgery procedures restricting those cost us over $2 million. Everyone took a 10% pay cut. It's very personal because these people are friends and colleagues and you hate to ask them to sacrifice. That's a very tough decision to make. For days we waited for a significant number of Covad patients. But at the same time, we were moving very quickly towards financial disaster. I could never live with myself if I was the one that got my kids sick. So the kids, they went to stay with her grandparents. If this hospital couldn't survive, where would we go? What would we do? Our family's rooted here. We don't want to go anywhere. The presence of a pandemic is just one more financial burden on struggling rural hospitals. High numbers of uninsured patients have forced 100 and 28 hospitals to close in the last decades in Texas, more than any other state. It's staggering to think that there are 11 million people who in their county cannot go to a hospital. There are a handful of counties across Texas that don't have a doctor in the county to drive 150 miles or more to get to a hospital. That's absolutely the difference between life and death. When Governor Abbott reopened Texas, there was kind of a mixed sense of relief and fear. My anxiety went through the roof. We reopened our hospital for elective surgeries on May the 11th. It was an absolute necessity to get the funds running again. There's certain pieces that I couldn't have fixed without help. We had to have federal intervention, the Trump administration promised to rush $10 billion for rural health care providers. That's money that's going to support the hospitals that gave up elective procedures, which is how they make so much of their money. We knew then that we would have the money to be able to keep the doors open when the state had been opened up for three weeks, my husband and I wanted to bring the kids back home. I actually got the best birthday present and went and got them for my 35th birthday. They had a carrot cake, meat for me or a bunny cake is, they called it. I don't know what the future will bring. I don't know if we'll ever hit that storm of patients to come in, and if so, we might end up taking the kids back to their grandparent's. We're a very vital part of these small communities in most of us get paid less than what it costs us to provide care. We need to be paid fairly for what we do. I think you're going to see rural medicine continue to kind of just dwindle, and that's heart wrenching. because I think that everybody should have care that's accessible to them. Is this stuff really key? With an empty from Sweetwater Cove? It is finally arrived. We have over 10 active cases in the county, one hospitalized with critical illness, requiring respiratory support.