Closed Hospitals Leave Rural Patients ‘Stranded’ as Coronavirus Spreads

New York Times

Michael Nuzum had spent weeks fighting coronavirus-like symptoms — a wracking cough, terrible chills, an exhausting fever — before collapsing at his home in rural West Virginia.

Mr. Nuzum, a 54-year-old animal control worker, was already in cardiac arrest when the emergency workers arrived on April 3. That left them with a difficult decision: Should they transport their patient to the nearest hospital, 30 minutes away?

“There’s only so much one paramedic can do in the back of an ambulance,” said Michael Angelucci, who leads the Marion County rescue squad that cared for Mr. Nuzum. The two-person team that responded decided it couldn’t risk the long ride and instead tried to revive the patient at the scene. But the workers couldn’t save him.

Two weeks earlier, the options would have been different. Fairmont Regional Medical Center, just five minutes from Mr. Nuzum’s home, would still have been open. Mr. Angelucci, who is also a state representative, can’t help wondering if the hospital and its emergency room could have given the man a fighting chance.

“It’s incredibly frustrating that this entire community is stranded without a hospital,” he said.

Fairmont was one of three hospitals that have shut down in this corner of rural West Virginia and Ohio since September. They delivered hundreds of babies each year, treated car crash and gunshot victims, repaired hearts and knees and offered addiction treatment and psychiatric care.

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