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Rural Hospitals In Washington Are Hanging In During The Covid Pandemic

Providence Health Care

Rural hospitals in Washington are in better shape than their counterparts in other rural areas around the West and Midwest, in terms of handling Covid surges.

Jacqueline Barton True, the vice president for rural health for the Washington State Hospital Association, says there are several reasons. One, she says, is that Washington was much more aggressive in battling the pandemic during its early days.

Another reason, she says, is an agreement between hospitals that makes it easier to keep track of where patient numbers are highest.

“There’s a group, the Washington Medical Coordinating Center, which is out of UW Harborview, who looks statewide and monitors capacity and says, ‘Hey, we’re getting concern in this area. We may need to transfer some patients,'" she said.

Barton True says transfers are usually one way, when small, rural hospitals send Covid and other seriously ill patients to larger medical centers. But she says larger facilities may also send patients with less serious conditions to smaller hospitals.

Another reason, Washington hospitals took advantage of the Covid slow season.

“The benefit that we had over the summer, of lower case flows and what you might optimistically call a bit of a pause, was that folks knew that we were probably going to see a surge in the fall. We knew that things might get tighter again and so our hospitals took that opportunity to stockpile where they could and order an extra box here, an extra box there every time they could," she said.

So hospitals are in pretty good shape when it comes to protective equipment for providers, especially masks and gowns.

“Gloves, I’m hearing now, are a big concern," she said. "One of our hospitals told me late last week that, typically, they paid about 20 cents for gloves and now they’re paying a dollar per pair, which is really exorbitant. They had to go to their fourth option in order to secure those.”

Barton True says the hospitals are worried about another surge after the Thanksgiving holiday, so they’re urging you to gather responsibly and minimize your exposure risk.