COVID-19's Dangerous Challenges for Rural America

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Playing Rural America Faces Unique Challenges during the COVID Pandemic

American cities have been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and rural America is also facing its own set of unique and dangerous challenges.

The Doctors welcome Dr. Jennifer McKenney, a doctor for Fredonia, Kansas, to help shed light on the COVID-related healthcare issues that the 60 million people who live in rural communities are dealing with, including a shirking medical workforce, not having hospitals close by, and the continued closure of existing hospitals. 

Dr. McKenney is one of only 5 doctors in her town, which only has 1 hospital.

"When we have 1 [doctor] that is out, it is a really big deal," she tells us explaining when their medical staff is exposed to COVID they do not have the ability to quarantine and isolate and they are forced to continue working with a "modified quarantine," where the staff continues to work if they test negative and wearing protective equipment while closely monitoring them for any symptoms.

She explains her area must use this approach because their community would not be able to function if these healthcare workers were not still on the job.

Dr. Lauren Hughes, the State Policy Director and Associate Professor at the University of Colorado, explains that the CDC has even allowed some healthcare workers in North Dakota and Montana who have tested positive for the virus but are asymptomatic, to return to work because of how short-staffed their areas are. Dr. Hughes explains this presents multiple possible concerns, mainly possible exposure to other staff and patients. 

Another issue for some rural areas is no access to ICU beds. Dr. McKenney shares that her hospital has zero ICU beds, and recently she had to contact 11 different hospitals to find the proper care needed for a patient. 

In the video below, find out more about how rural areas are struggling to afford pricey proper personal protective equipment and why price-gouging is hurting these already strained communities.

Stay informed on the latest COVID-19 news, resources and stories seen on The Doctors.

Watch: Doctors Continue to Work after COVID-19 Exposure in Rural Hospitals

Watch: COVID-19 Positive Nurses Keep Working in Rural America

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