Hereford Regional Medical Center starts coronavirus vaccine waitlist; rural hospitals still in need

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HEREFORD, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — As Texas continues coronavirus vaccinations for frontline healthcare workers and those at highest risk, some locals are anxious for their first doses.

The Hereford Regional Medical Center recently started a waitlist so they could schedule eligible people for their shots.

“I’m very encouraged by the level of interest with this,” Deaf Smith County Hospital District CEO, Jeff Barnhart, said on Thursday. “We started, you know, that first tier, you know, health care providers, frontline, first responders, and we’re trying to get everybody else worked in.”

Barnhart said they have a 10-page waitlist and are on page six. He said this includes nursing home residents as well.

“We’ve got to do 10 of these at a time. You know, that’s, that’s how much comes in each vial. So we’re trying to get 10 at a time done,” Barnhart added. “What we’re doing is we’re working off of that list. If we have seven of those on that first tier, we need three more, we’ve got a list developed, and we’re calling people in, you know, at the very last minute, we’ve been able to get that ten done. So it’s working well.”

So far, HRMC has vaccinated nearly 500 people with the Moderna coronavirus vaccine.

“So we’re very encouraged about the speed that we’ve been able to get this done, and, unfortunately, we are fixing to run out of vaccine. So, we’re hoping we can get some more from the state pretty quick,” said Barnhart.

According to Barnhart, healthcare workers at HRMC should receive their second doses on Jan. 21, 2021.

John Henderson, the CEO and President of the Texas Organization of Rural and Community Hospitals (TORCH), said coronavirus vaccine distribution has been slower in Texas than we would have liked, but there is a lot of effort going into accelerating the rollout and fixing logistical errors.

Henderson said, “And getting to those vulnerable populations, the carve-out for nursing home residents will be covered next week, which allows the state to bump up the vaccine doses by more than 100,000 statewide. So there’s more vaccine coming online every single week.”

According to Henderson, group 1A in Texas is the hardest and slowest to vaccinate, as hospitals cannot vaccinate all staff members at the same time.

“Well, I was worried about vaccine reluctance among rural populations in particular, and that’s becoming less of an issue every single week,” Henderson said. “The issue now is we’ve got 10 million Texans in that 1A and 1B population. How do we get more doses every week into arms so that we can start fighting back against this virus?”

Henderson said the vaccination process in Texas should speed up once that first tier is complete, especially with more easily accessible vaccines in our rural hospitals.

“Moderna was better for rural communities than Pfizer was. I’m hopeful that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that’s in the pipeline now is better than Moderna, in terms of storage quantities, one dose instead of two doses,” Henderson said. “So every single day, the situation improves a little bit for four communities in Texas, if we can just get through this Christmas surge of cases, I believe things will start improving by the end of January.”

However, due to our surge in COVID-19 cases in the fall and early winter, plus new cases after the holidays, hospitals are full and overwhelmed.

“So that’s priority number one, is take care of the patients that you have. The other pressing issue this week is we still count 25 rural Texas hospitals that haven’t received a single dose,” Henderson continued. “The good news is most of those have been able to benefit from sharing either from neighboring hospitals, clinics, or pharmacies and get some doses in their health care workers.”

But TORCH is still advocating to get those vaccine doses to our most vulnerable in more rural parts of the Panhandle.

“Small communities, but no less valuable Texans. We like to say that every Texan matters. So we want to get that allocation to every single rural hospital in the state,” Henderson said.

Barnhart is in communication with other rural hospitals as the pandemic continues on.

When asked how they are faring with vaccinations, he said, “I’m hearing that things are going well. You know, the concerning thing to me is not all the rural hospitals were in that initial round that we were in and…it’s concerning, kind of scary to me, because we don’t have, you know, the depth of employees that bigger facilities do.”

Barnhart said small hospitals like HRMC and many others in the Panhandle do not have the depth of employees that large hospital systems have.

“Sometimes we’re hotspots. We can’t afford to have our employees getting sick, but I think these vaccinations are finally making their way out to these rural hospitals and…as far as the, you know, the vaccinations, for my understanding, it’s going quite well,” said Barnhart.

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