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Rural hospitals treating more COVID-19 patients

Health care workers under stress as COVID-19 cases rise across the country

GALESBURG, Illinois — Health care workers are under stress as COVID-19 cases rise across the country. Rural hospitals are also feeling the strain as the pandemic wears on.

"We are not exempted from the coronavirus, it's here now," said Dr. Julio Santiago at Galesburg Cottage Hospital. "It is a very difficult, stressful time, but I think our staff is responding really well."

Dr. Santiago said right now the rural hospital is seeing more COVID-19 patients than in the spring or summer. 

"Our concern is [not only] that we have enough beds, but do we have enough staff to take care of those people that will fill those beds," Dr. Santiago said.

He said the good news is that the hospital's capacity is holding up. Therapeutics like Remdesivir and Dexamethasone have helped, as well, he said.

"What I believe is that the tough times have taught us a lot of good lessons, and we have learned from that and we have improved," said Dr. Shitaldas Pamnani at Perry Memorial Hospital in Princeton, Illinois. 

Dr. Pamnani describes a similar situation at his rural hospital, as COVID-19 cases rise in Bureau County as well.

"It’s tough to talk to the family members that their lungs are not working because of COVID, and they will have to make the ultimate decision of how to proceed with the treatment plan," said Dr. Pamnani. "So those have been some of the difficult conversations from my side."

Dr. Santiago has had difficult conversations with patients and families in Galesburg as well. 

"To express that extreme progression of the disease to death is difficult always," Dr. Santiago said. "But this is what we live for, to take care of people."