During the Covid surges, Dr Katie Camarata, the doctor who cared for Ms Wenrich, lay awake overnight with critically ill patients, calling hospital systems in surrounding states. All seven refused transfers. Eventually, Cascade staff created their own negative pressure rooms so they could keep highly infectious patients in-house without infecting others.
Providing hospital care “is a moral decision,” said Dan Rosbrugh, 75, who was admitted to Cascade in October with pancreatitis pain he called “worse than my broken leg in Vietnam.” He stayed for five days. When he was able to eat again, his doctor, Dr. Ron Ellsworth, went to the D9 grocery store to buy him some pudding.
Some hospitals have already made the decision to accept the government’s offer. St. Margaret’s Health in Illinois told community members it would convert one of its two hospitals, less than four miles apart, to a rural emergency hospital, but keep the other service complete. Sturgis Hospital in Michigan was struggling to operate on a loan when it learned of the new designation and announced it would convert.
Others plan to do without. CEOs of Ouachita County Medical Center in Camden, Ark.; Southern Inyo Hospital in Lone Pine, California; and Comanche County Hospital in Coldwater, Kansas, said ending inpatient services would be unsustainable for their elderly populations.
Tim Reeves, the chief executive of the 16-bed Bucktail Medical Center in Renovo, Pennsylvania, ruled out the conversion because in the event of another pandemic outbreak, there would be “nowhere left to transfer my patients.”
In 2021, Bucktail’s financial margin for patient services was negative 43%.
“Am I going to lose income? Maybe,” he said. “But is it more important to provide the necessary services? This is the position we take.
In Cascade, the decision does not seem so simple. Perhaps a hospital without inpatient services is better than no hospital at all.
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