JASPER, Ind.–When it comes to the coronavirus, the staff at many rural hospitals in Indiana are playing the waiting game.
Dr. Stephen Sample of Memorial Hospital and Healthcare Center in Jasper says he feels like he’s in a ghost town, just waiting for the flood of coronavirus patients.
“Most hospitals who are not actively involved in fighting this battle right now are really just sitting and waiting. Volumes in emergency departments are down anywhere between 30 to 60% nationwide, so there is actually a lot of time to kill,” says Sample.
But just because they are waiting, it doesn’t mean they won’t be ready when called upon, he says.
10 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Dubois County. 79 people have been tested. Sample says as hospitals are starting to broaden the scope of testing he expects to see even more people infected with the virus. Sample says there are people still ignoring social distancing guidelines.
“I’ve got friends in the community. I am hearing rumors about a big party that happened this past weekend. I’ve heard friends who have been invited to another one this week. Thankfully, they have turned them down,” says Sample.
Sample is concerned about the effect of the virus is having on poor people and Hispanic families in his community.
“Anytime a pandemic hits, the poor are going to suffer disproportionately. Always. Many Hispanic people are considered essential. They are food-processing employees. I am concerned about them taking it home to the elderly,” says Sample.
Sample says he’s seeing fewer cases of heart attacks, strokes, and surgical emergencies, but he worries that because patients are afraid of catching the virus, they’re not coming in until their conditions are significantly worse.
He is urging healthcare workers to remind their communities they are still open and while the way they do things may have changed, they still need to be seeing patients if they’re sick.