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Rural community hospital deals with challenges as COVID-19 cases continue rising

Posted at 6:53 AM, Dec 09, 2020

GREEN VALLEY, Ariz, - At some hospitals across southern Arizona, the number of patients with COVID-19 is increasing. That holds true for the Santa Cruz Valley Regional Hospital in Green Valley.

“Santa Cruz Valley is seeing a lot of patients with COVID come into the emergency department," said Jennifer Biggs, the hospitals Chief Nursing Officer.

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The rural community hospital has six ICU beds and 12 beds in its emergency department, according to Biggs. While it does have those beds for patients, the increase in COVID-19 patients has come with an increase in challenges.

“Staffing is very tight," said Biggs, “we have reached out to our travel agencies and really there are very few travelers available.”

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Like others at different hospitals in southern Arizona, reaching out to travel agencies for additional employees hasn't resulted in much help.

A lack of a certain kind of staff member has also put a strain on the hospital, according to Biggs.

“We do not have pulmonology here and sometimes patients are so sick they do need that specialty of pulmonology," she said.

Since there is no pulmonologist at Santa Cruz Valley Regional, Biggs and her staff have had to use the Arizona Surge Line to transfer the most ill COVID patients.

“Last week we had five transfers out and the Tucson hospitals were exceedingly full and I believe all five of those patients ended up going to Phoenix because of how full the Tucson hospitals were," she said.

Transferring patients out to different hospitals is a process in of itself, sometimes takes more than 10 hours.

“You can wait 10, 12, 14 hours at times, so you need to be able to take care of that patient in the meantime," said Biggs.

Despite the challenges Biggs and staff at Santa Cruz Valley Regional are facing, she said they continue showing up for work everyday, helping anyone who comes through their doors.

“Some of those patients are discharged and can be monitored and quarantine at home, others have to be admitted," said Biggs.