Coronavirus is already pressuring rural hospitals, even in counties where no cases have been confirmed
On a typical spring day, Craig’s Memorial Regional Hospital, in the rural northwest part of Colorado, monitors patients in 10 of its 25 available beds. As of March 25, there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Moffat County, a four-hour drive from Denver.
But the pandemic is already having a disastrous effect on Memorial.
Pleas by the state to avoid nonessential surgeries and procedures, combined with residents’ worries about infection, have cut the patient census to six a day. Craig Memorial can’t survive long on a 40% drop in its biggest source of revenue.
In Teller County at the western foot of Pikes Peak, where there have been seven confirmed cases of COVID-19 and one death attributed to the disease, the senior services agency, Teller Senior Coalition, which had just acquired a third wheelchair van for rides, has switched to crisis scheduling: Medical rides only, and food deliveries to seniors too vulnerable to go shopping.
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And no two-passenger trips.
And in Hugo on the Eastern Plains, Lincoln Community Hospital has built an airlock and isolation unit between its inpatient beds and its long-term care facility. The hospital has no COVID-19 patients yet, but dozens of canceled surgeries, specialty rotations and primary care visits make the CEO wonder if they can keep the doors open in three to four months. He’s hoping that Front Range hospitals hit hard by the virus will transfer noncritical, non-COVID-19 patients an hour away to Hugo, for good care and a little shared revenue.
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