Rural populations face special concerns when confronting the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Rural communities of Kentucky and other states are not immune to COVID-19, or the coronavirus. The first known case of coronavirus in Kentucky was in Cynthiana, a town with a population of only 6,400 persons, and cases of coronavirus have been identified in several other rural communities. The older age compositions and inadequate hospital infrastructures of rural communities place them at extremely high risk for serious cases of coronavirus and mortality,” write Dr. Ty Borders and Dr. Sam Tyagi in an op-ed published statewide.
“The cruel reality is that very few rural hospitals have intensive care units (ICUs) and ventilators necessary to treat serious cases of coronavirus. Rather, the majority of rural hospitals in Kentucky and other states are critical access hospitals (CAHs), which are intended to provide only emergency and short-term acute care….Transferring patients from rural to urban hospitals is not a realistic option because many urban hospitals are already facing short supplies of ICUs and ventilators.”
Drs. Borders and Tyagi recommend immediate action in the form of 1) public service announcements, 2) coordinated COVID-19 testing, and 3) coordinated hospital expansion.
Dr. Ty Borders is the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky Endowed Chair in Rural Health Policy and professor of Health Management and Policy at University of Kentucky College of Public Health. He is also director of the UK Rural and Underserved Health Research Center. Dr. Sam C. Tyagi is assistant professor of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery in the Department of Surgery at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and UK HealthCare.Tags: Friday Letter Submission, Publish on March 27