Texas Hospitals Battle COVID-19


John Henderson President of the Texas Organization of rural and community hospitals. Thank you so much for talking with us. so tell me what if things been like for you? With covert nineteen, so in the early days of the pandemic are hospitals started telling us they were having a terrible time getting p. mask, and gloves and gowns enhanced sanitizer, and so we kinda became a procurement shop for our rural Texas, hospital and most of those supply chains that we would normally lean on were turned upside down, so we were working with nontraditional vendors and middleman like what were some of the channels that you were reaching out to? Your last. Well. The craziest one was a friend of a friend connected me to a guy he knew that had. Literally smuggled them across the Mexico border in had mask in A. Warehouse in east, Austin, and so. I went down there, and he offered me a Tequila shot and we worked out a deal. And from what I understand like distribution, you say destruction, but that was like you in a car. Well maybe not formal distribution, but twenty or thirty friends of ours that had called our office, saying. Hey, I'd love to help you make deliveries. Kind of created this daisy chain of volunteers across Texas where you know, we could get something to abilene and then a friend in Abilene. Get it on up to Lubbock Grammar out west Texas and the Permian Basin. And, then as we kinda develop and got better at it. We were introduced to people who wanted to help. A A really good example is a lady I met named Camilla all this who I didn't recognize the name, but she's actually married to Matthew mcconaughey. And they were great about getting US donated. Supplies, mcconaughey! Yeah. Hey. Yeah And I didn't realize when she said she had a driver ready that it was matthew with A. Truck full of mask ready to go to. Hospitals. And she said I have a driver. Eddie and it was her husband Matthew mcconaughey, who was like liver masks. If you need me to the threat, it's amazing. Talk to me a little bit about sort of how things have changed since the early days as we talk today, most areas of Texas. Are. Reporting Trans that are a little bit problematic and scary. Right because from what I've read and what I understand like Texas was at a a pretty advanced stage of reopening, and then his actually like walked it back. Early on we were will behind other states especially New York, in thought, we managed it fairly well. Most of that worst case scenario forecast did not materialize in March and April, but it certainly has since the Memorial Day holiday I think that actual coca cases in hospital admissions are like four times higher than they were at the beginning of June and I think for the first time over the weekend. We were reporting more than eight thousand cases a day. So it's it's all headed. Definitely headed the wrong direction, and now we've got a statewide mask. Order Oh so everywhere you go. You have to wear masks outside. Everywhere you go in counties with more than twenty cases, which is almost everybody. We're working to try to secure a stockpile ventilators that we can distribute around Texas you know as we see those flare ups and can help them deal with it. The thing that's actually a little bit scary to me is that the urban areas are at or near capacity which means that the rural hospitals are having to keep patients that are a little bit more acutely, ill or higher level of need than they would normally keep, so we're? They would, they would transfer someone who is really sick to a larger urban hospital, which might have more equipment resources. Things like that. That's exactly right. And they're doing that fairly well, but. In, they've got bed capacity. They're just stretched when it comes to staffing, primarily I think the state of Texas actually has sent twenty three hundred nurses to South Texas to try to help them because the hospitals her. You know bursting at the seams. There's been a lot of coverage about the difficult financial situation that a lot of hospitals are in right now. The things that they traditionally made a lot of money off of elective surgeries and clinic visits have been canceled and they've had to make big investments in equipment and staffing other things to prepare for the pandemic rural hospitals operate on a really thin margin, compared to other hospitals often barely make a profit with this surge coming in Texas. Are you worried that some rural hospitals won't make it? Oh, yes. I was worried in April that we might have a dozen rural hospitals close in, I would get multiple calls every day from rural hospitals. CEO's that were saying. We're on the ropes. You know we didn't have any cash and we were maxed out on credit before this thing started. Now we've got you know. Shutdown orders, clinic, visit, cancellations, and no elective surgeries or procedures in. We aren't going to make the next payroll soccer. We're GONNA close. Thankfully in April. They got some significant federal stimulus money that aimed ten billion dollars nationally that rural hospitals and rural health clinics that single funding alone saved half a dozen rural Texas Hospitals Oh. And so a concern of mine as we look at the whatever the next stimulus package be that if if conditions don't change and that doesn't move, then we could. Have you know more rural hospital closures. You could make an argument that like well we. We should concentrate our resources an urban hospitals and they can have like the very best everything. People can just get transferred. Well, that's that's the argument that urban citizens matter more than rural citizens and I believe every Tex Mex and some of these rural communities are literally. From a larger community, so I think I think Cova has actually been a pretty stark reminder of lots access to healthcare in hospital. Capacity Matters. you know I, I know that we wish we had some of hospitals available that have closed in the last few years. I'm wondering I. Don't know just like what your? Takeaway from this whole thing has been. Well. I think it's probably the most consequential six months in my lifetime, and and maybe the most the next one hundred days. We'll be as important as anything we've been through. A since April,

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