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AP finds rural hospital running out of staff during surge

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Kansas City, Missouri, reporter Heather Hollingsworth acted on a source’s tip to illustrate the pandemic’s toll on rural Midwestern hospitals during the current case surge. She told the story of a tiny Kansas hospital, full of patients and struggling to function as much of its own staff was sidelined with COVID-19. At one point a doctor and physician assistant tested positive on the same day, briefly leaving the hospital without anyone who could write prescriptions or oversee patient care.

Hollingsworth spoke with hospital staff, including the radiology technician who slept in an RV in the parking lot for more than a week because his co-workers were out sick and there was no one else available to take X-rays.

One of the staff members provided a chilling quote about the facility’s interactions with the larger hospitals in the region: “We are not going to waste a bed on someone who is going to die anyway. They can die in a small town and that is the sad reality of the situation.”

The story received strong play in Kansas and beyond, and a medical staffing agency saw the story and responded by offering to send nurses to the town to help out, a sign of the power and reach of the AP.

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