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Rural hospitals struggle to care for patients amid coronavirus surge

Updated: Jan. 15, 2021 at 4:25 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Hospitals in rural areas are struggling to care for patients as more are coming into the hospital.

Hospitals such as West Feliciana Hospital may not always have the proper tools to take care of patients long term and are transferred to larger hospitals like Our Lady of the Lake or Baton Rouge General.

Due to recent increase in Covid-19 hospitalizations, urban hospitals are having to turn transfer patients away.

Hospitalizations are at an all-time high in Louisiana, and it’s now affecting smaller hospitals. Over at West Feliciana Hospital, they are having to transfer some of their COVID and NON-COVID patients to urban hospitals, but lately they haven’t been able to accept more people because of the influx of patients.

“We have limited resources, we have to depend on out other hospitals and normally they are always there for us. However, because of the situation of the pandemic both affecting the number of staff and the number of patients they are receiving become critical,” says Lee Chastant who is the CEO of West Feliciana Hospital.

West Feliciana Hospital has an ER, but they do not have a licensed ICU, therefore they can’t take care of patients long term; that’s why they rely on bigger area hospitals like Our Lady of the Lake and Baton Rouge General. However, within the last three weeks, West Feliciana Hospital has not been able to get 65% of their patients into Baton Rouge hospitals.

“Because of COVID, we can’t get them out. We’ve had gunshot wounds, we’ve had it you name it. As an emergency room we see it. So, it’s not just about the COVID patients we can’t transfer out. It’s those patients that are having heart attacks and can’t get to the right facility,” says Nursing Manager Will Tramel.

The staff has had to send patients as far away as Shreveport. It’s been a battle for them, but for family members who may have to send their loved one miles away to get the care they need.

“They want to be close to their family when we transfer them out, but the distance to travel from here to Eunice, the distance to travel to Lafayette and Lake Charles becomes a burden for some of them just financial resources, or maybe just having to work and they can’t get close to their family,” adds Tramel.

West Feliciana says they normally transport 29% of their patients to other hospitals, but as of last year they transported 527 patient to other facilities.

Right now all hospital staff members tell us they’re doing everything they can to take care of their patients as the pandemic gets even worse.

West Feliciana says they will continue to keep patients and monitor them even if urban hospitals are not taking in any more transfer patients.

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