Georgia’s Rural Hospitals Grow Frustrated With Lack Of Large Facilities To Send Critical COVID-19 Patients

While Georgia has climbed its way into the top-four in states with the highest positive COVID-19 cases, many local rural hospitals are having difficulty handling overcrowding.

With more cases than beds to contain people falling ill, Miller County Hospital CEO Robin Rau says the recent weeks have been “demoralizing.”

“We had four individuals, dialing, just dialing constantly, hospital after hospital after hospital,” Rau says.

Rau’s hospital is in Colquitt, Georgia, near the Georgia-Alabama border. She says her hospital is full. Now she is trying to find a larger facility equipped with an intensive care unit to take in four patients.

However, there are no open beds in the state of Georgia, or nearby states, to house those in need.

“We have called hundreds and hundreds of hospitals,” Rau says. “There is not a hospital bed within seven states of Georgia to get these patients into.”

According to FOX5, Atlanta, Georgia, reported 5,584 people in hospital with the coronavirus on Jan.15.

And  91% of Georgia’s ICU beds are occupied, Georgia Department of Public Health reports.

“The public doesn’t seem to completely understand,” Rau says. “They’re thinking about COVID in terms of getting it. They don’t understand there is limited help for anything today.”

It took Rau’s hospital four days to transfer a gravely ill young man with COVID to be transferred to a hospital in Dothan, Alabama, earlier this week.

The man is currently in stable condition.

However, for the four others, Rau is still looking for assistance.

The hospital CEO has informed hospitals on a state-run database about bed availability.

The results?

The database showed that there were 20 ICU beds available at a Metro-Atlanta hospital system.

“In reality, they had some 30-something patients in their emergency room, waiting to occupy those beds,” Rau says. “So, there is a disconnect between the data and reality.”

Dr. Ben Camp, Tanner Health System’s Chief Medical Officer, also says their ICU beds are full.

“We have pressures of not just patients and patient capacity, but we have pressures of trying to take our staff who need to take care of them, our hospitalists, our nurses, and our critical care staff,” he says.

Dr. Camp says his system has five hospitals, but only two have intensive care units and 20 available beds combined.

“So, even us trying to manage our smaller hospitals, and find capacity for them, has been a challenge,” he says. “It is really difficult, if not impossible, to get patients transferred into Atlanta.”

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