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COVID-19 wave overwhelms rural hospitals short on ICU beds

October 24, 2021 GMT

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The case of a rural Minnesota man who waited two days for an ICU bed and later died is among several examples that have frustrated officials in rural hospitals whose facilities are overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients.

Bob Cameron, 87, spent two days in his hometown hospital in Hallock, Minnesota, where caregivers searched nonstop for space in a larger hospital that could find and fix the source of his severe gastrointestinal bleeding and treat his COVID-19.

The bleeding exhausted the hospital’s blood supply, so state troopers shuttled new units 130 miles from Fargo, North Dakota to Hallock to keep Cameron alive. A bed was secured Oct. 12 at Sanford Health in Fargo, but his condition worsened after surgery there to find the source of his bleeding. He died Oct. 13, the Star Tribune reported.

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“We can’t say for certain, of course, that if he got to an ICU bed sooner that he would have survived, but we just feel in our hearts that he would have,” said Cameron’s granddaughter, Janna Curry.

During a three-week stretch this month, rural hospitals were caring for more COVID-19 patients than Twin Cities hospitals.

“We’re playing tag back and forth between Aitkin, Crosby, Brainerd and Princeton,” said Dr. Arden Virnig, supervisor of a five-bed ER at Mille Lacs Health System in Onamia, Minnesota. “Basically, we’re calling each other all day long to say, ‘Who’s got a new bed open?’ ”