AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — While Amarillo hospitals are being inundated by patients coming in with Covid, the flu, and RSV, regional and rural hospitals are feeling the impact as well.

John Henderson, the president and CEO of the Texas Organization of Rural and Community Hospitals (TORCH), said on Monday that while it varies by region, most rural hospitals in Texas are holding up with regard to bed capacity.

“Of course, they’re seeing increased volume of both flu and RSV, but not pushed to the absolute limit the way we’re seeing in some of the children’s hospitals and more urban hospitals,” said Henderson.

Jeff Barnhart, the CEO of the Deaf Smith County Hospital District, said they have seen a big wave of patients coming in with RSV, covid, the flu, and even strep starting last Saturday.

“This last weekend, our clinic in two days saw 70-something patients. Our ER has been stacking up, you know, we’re full. We can’t see anymore in our clinics so that volume is moving over to our ER, and we’re are stacked up in there today,” said Barnhart.

Henderson said, “Some of that inundation in the ER becomes a staffing issue and rural hospitals generally have had trouble not just with nurses and doctors, but respiratory therapists, and all that becomes important.”

Barnhart said while their hospital is doing fine concerning bed capacity, they do have several staff members out sick.

“We’ve made the decision weekend before last to go ahead and start masking employees again, just because we had all this running around and you know, we’ve got to keep our staff. “We’ve got to try to keep them healthy,” he continued. “But we’ve had staff out with this as well and it’s anything from COVID to, you know, RSV and strep.”

Barnhart encouraged people to get vaccinated against the flu and covid if they have not, and take precautions to keep from getting sick.

“At the end of the day, if you’re sick, stay home,” Barnhart said. “Don’t go to school, don’t go to work. You’re just spreading it when you do that.”

Henderson said, “To the extent you can, try to be safe. Wash your hands, you know, try to keep the load and the transmission off of these rural hospital ERs to the extent that you can, you know. Don’t get sick. It’s really as simple as that.”

Citing a recent report, Henderson said about 26% of rural Texas hospitals are at serious risk of closure, and rural hospitals are five times more likely than urban hospitals to face closure.

“That becomes a problem when it comes to access to care in those ER situations…So the report just confirms what we knew to be true on the ground, that our rural hospitals are really vulnerable right now,” said Henderson.

He continued, “To offset the truth in the report is the other side, which is rural communities and hospitals are really tough and resilient. And even though they have challenges, I wouldn’t completely panic or freak out. They’re gonna find a way to be there for you and take care of you and your family and friends when you need them the most. That’s why our hospitals exist. That’s what we do.”