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Rural healthcare systems struggle to keep up during pandemic

Working together to carry the burden
Posted at 6:48 PM, Dec 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-03 19:48:28-05

FREMONT, Neb. (KMTV) — In recent years, rural healthcare has seen a shortage in staff and COVID-19 has only made it worse as healthcare systems do their best to fight the pandemic.

COVID hit hard early in the pandemic in rural communities.

The CDC says people in rural areas are 2.5 times more likely to die from the virus than those in metropolitan areas.

“It’s busy and its taxing,” said Lexington Regional Health Center chief nurse Nicole Thorell. “We are seeing some hospitalized patients, we're lucky that we had that surge early on. We did some really good planning and preparation and our team is outstanding.”

She says rural health centers are working together so that one hospital isn't overwhelmed.

“We've taken some of their patients to reduce their burden and they've been able to assist and take on some of the patients that we can't provide the care for. It's a great partnership,” she said.

Nursing shortages were a problem before the pandemic and even more so now.

“It’s stretching the rural healthcare providers and the system to the max at this point,” said John Roberts with the Nebraska Rural Health Association. “I don't think it’s to the critical stage, but it certainly has put a decent strain on our healthcare providers and hospital systems.”

Nicole says they're doing their best they can.

“It is a struggle,” she said. “The healthcare environment is tiring but it’s very rewarding. You go into the job to take care of people and that’s what we're doing.”

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