Coronavirus Coverage from KARK

Rural Arkansas medical centers see the same staffing, capacity concerns as larger hospitals


BATESVILLE, Ark. – As Arkansas hospitals continue to feel the strain of COVID, rural medical centers are facing their own challenges.

Like many hospitals across the state, White River Medical Center in Batesville is stretched thin. As of Tuesday, they have 33 hospitalized COVID patients, and their COVID unit is at 100% capacity.

Jennifer Sandage, the associate chief nursing officer says every day brings a new challenge.

“We are constantly monitoring our bed capacity and our staffing,” Sandage explained.

The medical center posts daily updates on their social media pages to keep the community informed and compiles a weekly report that goes into more detail. One of the major issues the center is facing is finding people willing to work.

“Our employees are working long hours to care for our patients,” Sandage explained, “Staffing is tight.” The hospital is even offering incentives in an effort to attract applicants.

The other problem, Sandage explained, is ICU beds, something they’re closely monitoring. Right now, Sandage says they have enough capacity to treat the needs of COVID patients without sending them elsewhere. But as a rural hospital, options are limited.

“We don’t have all of the various resources that some of the larger hospitals might have,” explained Sandage.

But while staff keeps up with the demands of a global pandemic, their dedication to the community shines through. Sandage says the door will always be open for those in need, and when serving a smaller community, every patient that comes in is considered a friend and family.

White River says the best thing people can do to help medical workers is to think about getting vaccinated.

They’ve been holding weekly task force events with Independence County to answer community member’s questions and concerns, and routinely offer free COVID vaccination clinics in an effort to raise the vaccination rate.

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