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Overwhelmed And Understaffed: Rural Hospitals Struggle With Texas' Worst COVID-19 Surge

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Rural Texas doctors fuming after being left out in cold on vaccine
A healthcare worker wears personal protective equipment on his way to see a patient at Medical Arts Hospital in Lamesa, Texas, U.S., December 17, 2020. Picture taken December 17, 2020. REUTERS/Go Nakamura

More than 170 hospitals in Texas report intensive care units near or at capacity, according to federal data. More than 130 report "critical staffing shortages."

It's a bad pairing. Staffing shortages reduce quality of care, cause larger care centers to reject transfers at higher than normal rates, and can lead to burnout and "compassion fatigue."

These figures come as the state experiences its worst surge in cases yet, setting multiple records throughout December.

For some hospitals, the vaccine is arriving. For others — and for the general public — it's still on the horizon. What happens between now and widespread distribution?

Reported and Produced by: Bonnie Petrie and Dominic Anthony Walsh

Sound Design and Music: Jacob Rosati

Executive Producer: Fernanda Camarena

Host: Bonnie Petrie

TPR News Director: Dan Katz

Texas Newsroom Managing Editor: Mark Memmott

TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.

Bonnie Petrie can be reached at Bonnie@TPR.org and on Twitter at @kbonniepetrie
Dominic Anthony Walsh can be reached at Dominic@TPR.org and on Twitter at @_DominicAnthony
Fernanda Camarena is a veteran of the public radio programs Latino USA and Reveal. She is a senior editor for The Texas Newsroom.