Rural hospitals preparing for local COVID-19 surge

8 cases in Labette County as of April 7th

LABETTE COUNTY, Kan. & VERNON COUNTY, Mo. – “There’s not a playbook for pandemics,” says CEO of Labette Health Brian Williams.

From provider and supply shortages nationwide to preventing outbreaks in hospitals, healthcare has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

And for rural hospitals like Labette Health in Parsons, a big focus has been on preparing for the worst.

“Healthcare’s really good at prepping for the worst and hoping for the best,” says Williams.

For Labette Health, they’re doing a lot to get to that point, including finding hotel rooms for providers and nurses during an outbreak and expanding their number of beds.

“We’re currently licensed for 99 beds. We normally staff 48. So, we’re working towards 160 beds. We have most of those locations identified,” says Williams.

They’re going to convert an unused floor of the hospital for those beds, turn conference rooms into hospital rooms, and they’re adding trailers at the clinic in Independence so they can care for 30 patients there.

In Chanute, Kansas, Neosho Memorial Regional Medical Center has developed plans to expand its number of beds, double the size of its ER, and convert office space into a COVID-19 clinic.

And over at Nevada Regional Medical Center, they’ve set up a drive-up testing center, and are working on training additional staff to care for patients with COVID-19.

“Including administrative and clerical staff. They’re learning how to assist nursing and other caregiving staff. We have staff that are learning how to run ventilators. We have added more physicians to our list in the ER,” says Natalie Eberhard with Nevada Regional Medical Center.

Nevada Regional has also worked out a plan to expand their number of beds if the need arises, and will be having staff who don’t come into regular contact with sick patients use cloth masks, so they can conserve their N95s.

All to make sure they can care for patients in their time of need.

“All the hospitals are doing the best they can to prepare for something we hope doesn’t happen,” says Williams.

“But if it does, then like I said, we’ve been preparing ahead and we’ll be ready,” says Eberhard.

According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, as of 7 pm on April 7th, there have been eight confirmed cases in Labette county, and one confirmed case in Neosho county.

There are currently no confirmed cases in Vernon county, Missouri. Nevada Regional Medical Center has done 37 COVID-19 tests. 33 of them have been negative, and four are still being processed.