Arizona border counties call for emergency aid for rural hospitals

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The Arizona Border Counties Coalition is calling for emergency help from the state health department for stressed rural hospitals that need help caring for critically ill patients.

In a letter sent Sept. 17 to acting director of the Arizona Department of Health Services Don Herrington, county supervisors said non-COVID patients requiring advanced care could not be transferred to larger hospitals. , creating life-threatening situations.

They have asked to expand transfer services through the COVID-19 emergency line to include non-COVID acute care patients.

Cochise County Supervisor Ann English signed the letter, as did Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson, Santa Cruz County Supervisor Bruce Bracker, and Yuma County Supervisor Tony Reyes.

Herrington responded on Tuesday, saying a shortage of hospital staff has limited bed availability and caused some patient transfers to remain on hold.

“Extending the Arizona Surge Line to all patient transfers is not currently a viable option for improving patient transfers,” Herrington wrote.

The Arizona Surge Line was established as the COVID-19 pandemic was taking hold. Operated by the Department of Health Services and hospital officials, it acts as a 24/7 transfer system to balance the load in intensive care units and distribute intensive care patients across hospitals across the country. ‘Arizona.

ADHS efforts to “improve staffing in state hospitals” continue as part of the Staffing Initiative, Herrington replied.

Authorities expect more than 20 new nurses to start working in Arizona this week and nearly 200 more by the end of the month. The letter does not specify how the newly hired hospital staff would be distributed across the state.

English said: “It shows me that at least they’re thinking about what needs to be done.”

She said she understood why there were no plans to extend the surge line.

“Even the biggest hospitals suffer from the same thing as us: understaffing. There aren’t a lot of people lining up for these positions, ”she said.

Bracker thinks the opposite.

“There is no commitment in the response. The constituents I represent deserve better than this,” the Santa Cruz County supervisor told The Arizona Republic.

On September 8, the emergency room at the Santa Cruz Valley Regional Hospital received a patient with a life-threatening internal bleeding, Arizona Daily Star reported. Medical staff began contacting all hospitals in Tucson and Phoenix, and they all refused to accept a transfer.

Dr Sylvain Sidi, a Tucson-based gastroenterologist, traveled to Green Valley to perform surgery and saved the patient’s life. He thanked the hospital staff for not giving up and calling him directly.

“This is medicine at its best – for the community, for the patient who needs it and for reaching out and crossing all barriers,” Sidi told News from the Green Valley.

The Santa Cruz Valley Regional Hospital has filed a complaint with ADHS about the inability to transfer patients.

Similar issues have arisen at Copper Queen Community Hospital in Bisbee, as well as hospitals in Wilcox, Benson, Nogales and Yuma. At the Douglas Clinic, staff were unable to secure transfers for non-COVID intensive care patients with kidney failure, respiratory failure and hemorrhagic urgency.

Extending the surge line is a critical issue that needs to be prioritized, Bracker said.

Limited beds and available staff have nearly doubled the average time for COVID-19 case transfers over the past month, as hospitals are inundated with mostly unvaccinated COVID-19 patients. The average duration of these transfers is 4.6 hours. For some non-COVID intensive care patients, sometimes transfers never happen.

Daily life-threatening emergencies that require intensive care deserve more attention, Bracker said. Without access to the helpline, hospital staff and administrators are forced to make numerous calls to all hospitals to see who might accept a transfer.

It’s a task for the state to do, and there is money available, Bracker suggested.

“If this is happening for COVID patients in a stressed system, why isn’t it happening for other patients? Bracker said.

“Before COVID, it was not a problem. It has become a problem.”

Rural border county hospitals are “on the brink of financial collapse” and with “no relief in sight,” the letter from the Arizona Border Counties Coalition reads.

As of Thursday, 927 emergency beds were available in the state (39% of the total), but only 7% of the state’s inpatient hospital beds and 8% of intensive care beds were available.

Supervisors in Yuma and Pima counties did not respond to a request for comment.

Got any tips or ideas for articles on the Arizona and Sonora border regions? Contact the reporter at [email protected] or send a direct message on Twitter to @ClaraMigoya.

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