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Rural healthcare facilities face challenges amid COVID-19 surge

KVVU Las Vegas logo KVVU Las Vegas 9/11/2021
a large brick building © Byron E Teach

LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- Tonopah Primary Care has seen almost double the amount of patients since the COVID-19 pandemic. The office has four people managing dozens of people per day on top of COVID-testing.

"It at times can get very overwhelming," Nurse Practitioner Eljena Peterson said. "COVID-19 is about getting healthcare early. People survive it if they get treated in a timely fashion," Peterson said.

The only hospital in Tonopah closed in 2015. Though an urgent care opened in 2020, many patients delayed preventative care during the pandemic, leading to busy schedules in 2021; other patients cannot see their specialists for months, due to overwhelming demand.

The Nevada Hospital Association said that ambulance and paramedics teams have been very busy across the state, with surges of COVID-19 patients on top of other medical issues.

Peterson said paramedic teams may have to make tough decisions when more than one person needs transported. The nearest emergency room is 100 miles away in Hawthorne, and patients can also travel to Pahrump, Reno or the Las Vegas area.

"You have a limited team to get them down the road. You may have someone waiting for a few hours. There are at times we are doing stabilization, and a little more of a wait than we normally do," Peterson said.

Peterson said she believes in the mission of helping the underserved communities, and hopes more resources will be available to locals in the future.

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