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Rural Montana doctor voices concern about safety of non-COVID-19 patients

Posted at 4:16 PM, Mar 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-24 18:16:30-04

PLAINS — One major concern among primary care providers in rural communities is how the rapid spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) could impact other frequently seen emergencies.

Clark Fork Valley Hospital Family Practice Physician Dr. Ronald Black says he is the model of a rural physician. In cases of a heart attack, vehicle rollover, and other common occurrences, his job is to keep the victim alive, stabilize them, and get them to a trauma surgeon, or other necessary specialist.

That process becomes much more complicated if rural facilities are inundated with COVID-19 patients. Dr. Black said he’s already run into two separate incidents over the last few days where referral centers are already struggling with limited resources.

“One was a burn victim that we will usually send to Seattle and the response I got was, ‘Yeah, this is a guy that needs to go to a burn center, we don’t have any beds, keep him there where you’re at. We’ll touch base in a couple of days. Do your best…good luck’,” Dr. Black explained.

“I had another patient just vocally had a heart attack and I was calling down to one of the hospitals in Missoula and the response I got was, ‘Yes, he needs to come. Hang on, I’m going to check to see if we’re taking patients’,” he added.

Dr. Black says the importance of social isolation will be key in spreading out cases and flattening the curve is paramount right now.