Approx. 10% of Texas rural hospitals have not yet received a single dose of Covid-19 vaccine, according to a group representing state-run rural hospitals.
Of the 16 hospitals that have not been assigned a vaccine shipment, 15 have sought doses from adjacent providers or pharmacies to have their staff vaccinated, Don McBeath, director of government relations for the Texas Organization of Rural & Community Hospitals (TORCH) told CNN.
“There has been a very high level of frustration for a number of weeks with many of the Texas rural hospitals because they saw the state move into the public and administer vaccines, yet we had so many rural hospitals that have not even been in able to receive something for their frontline employees, ”McBeath said.
Last week, 25 of the state̵
“We have not received a single dose,” said Don Bates, CEO of Golden Planes. Some of his employees have received a vaccine from their local United supermarket, which had some extra doses to share.
McBeath said the increases in Covid-19 seen in Texas and across the nation are “just as bad or worse” in rural areas, where small hospitals cannot afford to have staff out of commission because there are so many patients who have need care.
If some of these hospitals have staff who are sick or in quarantine after Covid-19 exposure, “you do not even have enough staff to run a 24-hour operation,” he said.
“That is why we have repeatedly begged the state to make rural hospitals a priority – to find a way to make it work,” he added.
Problems with registration
Hospitals must have an application approved by the Texas Department of State Health Services before they can receive and administer vaccines.
“There are still some hospitals working to complete their enrollment as a vaccine provider. We have worked diligently with TORCH and the facilities directly to help them complete that process so they can receive the vaccine,” said Chris Van Deusen, Director of Media Relations. for told Texas Department of State Health Services, CNN. “Rural hospitals play an important role in providing care in their community, and we assign vaccines to them when they enroll.”
Some CEOs at the hospital say the enrollment process is not that simple.
Bates said he has tried to submit the application to his hospital at least a dozen times. “When you are on the computer with an application and they are asking for another revision that kicks you into a loop of waiting 14 business days more,” he said.
Bates likened it to calling the fire department when your house burns down and getting them to answer, “Well, how many buckets of water do you need?”
He said his application was approved last week, but the hospital has not been informed of how many doses it will receive and when.
“If we’re approved, send me the vaccine,” Bates said. “Let me get shots in the arms.”
Nathan Staggs, CEO of Anson General Hospital, another hospital awaiting vaccines, said his application was approved Wednesday. He said nearly half of his staff have recently had coronavirus, and some others have received doses through local pharmacies.
“There was a lot of frustration for my staff -” Why can I go to a pharmacy in the grocery store in Abilene and get a vaccine, but I can not get one at work? “, Said Staggs.
Expanding access to vaccines
Around the country, the spread of the coronavirus vaccine has been slower than federal officials originally expected. Just over 10 million people have received their first coronavirus shots, and 29.3 million doses of vaccine have been distributed, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday. At the urging of federal officials, many states are opening up vaccines to additional priority groups.
The Texas Department of State Health Services said in a statement on its website that during the week of January 11, Texas will refer most received Covid-19 vaccines to major sites or hubs in the state to vaccinate more than 100,000 people.
Bates said these major hubs could be hours away for people living in rural areas. When vaccinations became available to the wider population, he said his staff were still waiting for their turn.
“What does that mean for us? Do we keep waiting?” he said.
Texas, like other states, is working to speed up the administration of vaccines. The health department communicates regularly with hospital managers.
Bates said the message from the state was clear: “Get more shots in the arms.”
“Well, send me vaccines and I’ll do it,” he said.