What Coronavirus Means For Rural Hospital Capacity

Hospital capacity ( CMS Cost Reports (Data)

Lori Hays (Design) )

By now you’ve likely seen “the curve” on your social media platforms describing why social distancing and other coronavirus-stopping techniques are important for hospitals—but that fails to describe rural hospitals. Compared to their urban counterparts’ 21 intensive care unit (ICU) beds, rural hospitals have five ICU beds on average.

“I think the urban areas are going to be hit harder just because of the more populated areas,” says Shawn Buhrow, medical doctor, to AgriTalk host Chip Flory. “However, in the rural areas, like with any healthcare issues, they [sick people] are at risk just based on their inability to actually get to the health care facilities.”

Some rural residents have to drive an hour or more to their nearest hospital. If coronavirus (COVID-19) were to hit a rural community, beds at the local hospital could fill up quickly, meaning any additional patients would likely have to drive even farther for treatment. Containing this disease is key to decrease the risk of fatality.

“You know, when you compare [coronavirus] to H1N1, H1N1 mortality rate was 0.02% of individuals that were infected actually died,” Buhrow says. “But with this COVID-19, it’s estimated between 3% and 4%. So, it does have a higher mortality rate by quite a bit.”

rural area hospitals

However, proper hygiene and good habits will help curb this issue. The adage ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ holds true in this situation.

“I think we don’t want to panic over this, but we also need to be vigilant,” Buhrow says. Things like washing your hands frequently, social distancing and generally staying healthy will be key.

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