As Texas leads the nation in COVID-19 cases, rural hospitals feel brunt of the blow

Local News

WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — As rural hospitals deal with more and more COVID-19 cases, transferring patients, COVID-related or not, becomes even harder.

Numbers in Texas soared to 1.1 million COVID-19 cases.

“People are dying that live in our communities,” Tom Siemers, Wilbarger General Hospital CEO, said.

Meanwhile hospitals have struggled to keep up.

“It took 27 calls, 27 different hospitals in four different states to get one patient transferred,” Holly Holcomb, Childress Regional Medical Center COO, said.

Area hospitals are unable to receive new patients or transfer current ones, COVID-19 realted or not.

“The only two places we could find that would accept them was in Shreveport, LA and the other was in Colorado Springs,” Siemers said.

Wilbarger General Hospital currently has six intensive care unit patients four on a ventilator and another on a breathing assist.

Childress Regional Medical center is dealing with the same problem. A simple patient transfer use to take them half an hour. Now, they’ve seen it take as long as three days.

“The transfer bottleneck, it affects us, even if it’s a heart attack a stroke, or a motor vehicle accident or appendicitis,” Holcomb said. “It affects all of them COVID and non-COVID.”

Holcomb said last week they were at a “worst-case scenario,” but the ability to transfer patients has improved this week.

Though receiving patients can be just as hard as transfering.

“This morning, we had a call that a hospital wanted to transfer a patient to us, but we couldn’t,” Siemers said. “We just didn’t have enough staff. We couldn’t take the patient.”

It’s not so much a lack of rooms or beds either.

Siemers said he hopes people can realize the profound impact your choices have, considering hospital staff can come in contact with COVID-19 daily.

“Nurses and technicians and other people that work in the hospital are sick because they were working in the hospital taking care of people that didn’t think this was real,” Siemers said. “It just really bothers me to see people so careless because these people are putting their lives on the front line every day.”

Both hospitals are battling every day during a pandemic hoping to find some room to breathe.

United Regional released a statement in regards to the difficulty it is having finding room for transfer patients. To see that statement, click here.

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