At Tiny, Rural Hospitals, Weary Doctors Treat Friends and Family

December 10, 2020 by Christen Aldrich

Filed under COVID-19 for Employers, COVID-19 for the Workforce

Last modified December 22, 2020

According to this article from AP News, the coronavirus pandemic largely hit urban areas first, but the fall surge is now devastating rural America, too. The U.S. is now averaging more than 170,000 new cases each day, and it’s taking a toll from the biggest hospitals down to the smaller ones. It is argued that the tragedy is smaller in rural areas, more intimate. Everyone knows everyone.

The article goes on to describe devastating stories of rural hospitals and areas that have been recently tormented by the pandemic – one in particular located in Memphis, Missouri. People come to Scotland County Hospital from six surrounding counties, typically for treatment of things like farm and sports injuries, chest pains and the flu. Usually, there’s plenty of room. But not now. The small hospital with roughly six doctors and 75 nurses among 142 full-time staff, is in crisis. The region is seeing a big increase in COVID-19 cases, and all available beds are usually taken.

Scotland County Hospital’s doctors already are making difficult, often heartbreaking decisions about who they can take in. The hospital’s chief nursing officer, Elizabeth Guffey, said nurses are working up to 24 extra hours each week. Guffey sometimes sleeps in an office rather than go home between shifts.

“We’re in a surge capacity almost 100% of the time,” Guffey said. “So it’s all hands on deck.” It’s especially difficult to watch friends and relatives struggle through the illness while a large majority of the community still doesn’t take it seriously, she said.

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