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Hospitals in Panhandle experience setbacks transferring patients due to high COVID-19 numbers

Published: Aug. 13, 2021 at 6:33 PM CDT
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Rural hospitals in the Panhandle are having some trouble taking care of their seriously ill patients due to the high number of COVID-19 cases.

Many lie in areas with low vaccination rates which unfortunately keeps other patients that are in critical condition from getting help due to Amarillo hospital beds being full not able to accept transfers.

This has rural hospitals searching far and wide to get help.

“We got a patient right now that we’ve reached out all the way to Nevada and way out west to try and get this patient in,” said Jeff Barnhart, CEO of Deaf Smith County Hospital District. “This patient needs to be out of here. It’s dire, we don’t have a place to take them right now.”

Medical staff at Coon Memorial Hospital share similar experiences.

“We’ve talked to the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Vanderbilt in Tennessee, and all these places are full,” said Dr. Catherine Cantway, doctor at Coon Memorial Hospital. “They’ve all been unable to accept a patient of mine.”

Having to look far to transfer their patients, time is a vital factor to get people the care they need before it’s too late.

“The first thing you’re trying to do is get them in, diagnose it and get them out so that they can get to a higher level of care,” said Kacey Schniederjan, assistant CEO of Coon Memorial Hospital. “This is putting people at risk of long term effects because they can’t get to a higher level of care.”

Their calls for transferring patients can take days until they’re accepted and driving ambulances to these locations takes away attention from local emergency calls in their areas to help people in need.

“When we’re transporting a patient close to 300 miles we lose an ambulance in our system, and with our call volume, the way it has been, this challenge persists because we lose a truck that we can be using locally to respond to 911 calls,” said Barnhart.

Being stuck between taking care of ill patients and those with COVID-19, medical leaders continue urging people to get vaccinated.

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