Carol Johnson, Southern Indiana Business Report
Two rural Indiana counties in the Radius Indiana region were awarded sizable grants earlier this month to make improvements to health care services.
Greene County General Hospital received about $1 million from the USDA’s Rural Development Emergency Health Care Grants. The Crawford County Board of Commissioners was awarded $408,900.
In Greene County, the Rural Development investment will be used to renovate and relocate the hospital’s intensive care unit and co-locate it with the medical surgical department.
This project will allow the hospital to address the COVID-19 isolation and recovery and negative airflow issues by creating a dedicated isolation space that meets current pandemic isolation and other isolation requirements.
The county experienced spikes in COVID cases during the height of the pandemic. In January 2022, the hospital requested support from the Indiana National Guard to provide on-site support when it experienced a high volume of patients and not enough staff.
As of Oct. 10, Greene County reported 7,205 cases of COVID and 139 deaths since pandemic reporting began, according to the USA Facts COVID dashboard.
The renovation is estimated to cost $2.5 million and will move the ICU from the first floor to the third floor.
Stacy Burris, director of outreach and the hospital foundation, said during COVID the hospital had to immediately block off an area to prevent the spread of infection.
With COVID patients in both the ICU and med/surgical and staff wearing PPE, it created issues for staff who needed to go from ICU on the first floor to med/surgical on the third floor to care for patients.
The USDA grant will cover nearly half the cost of the project.
“One of the lessons of COVID after looking at our facility and our staffing, we want to make sure we have the best layout possible,” Burris said.
Greene County General is a 25-bed critical care access hospital in Linton. The hospital has 17 beds in med/surgical and five beds in ICU.
The area of the current ICU is next to the operating room and will become the post surgical recovery area
Burris said the hospital is adding a general surgeon to its staff and is anticipating an increase in surgical volume.
Crawford County will purchase two fully equipped ambulances, five Lucas devices used for cardiac life support, two Stryker Load Systems and four ventilators.
Crawford County, population 10,582, does not have a hospital, therefore EMS plays a critical role in patient care.
The USDA grant represents about half the total cost of the ambulances. The county provided matching funds from its American Rescue Plan allotment and it received $1,000 from Regional Opportunity Initiatives.
Jesse Belcher, interim director of the Crawford County Economic Development Corporation, wrote the grant.
“As a county with limited funding, we have trouble replacing equipment like that. The newest ambulance was 11 years old.”JESSE BELCHER, CRAWFORD CO. ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION
Equipment on the ambulances was becoming outdated, Belcher said, and that proved a challenge during COVID when EMS was responding to patients in respiratory distress.
These investments in emergency care will allow the residents of Crawford County to have five fully equipped ambulances and will enable EMTs to provide high-quality care in all situations and transfer patients promptly to a care facility for more treatment.
Although the county is not densely populated, it is large geographically. In 2021, Crawford County opened a second ambulance station to better serve residents during emergencies.
“Having an ambulance in the north in English and the south in Leavenworth has really cut down on response times,” Belcher said.
The ambulances are expected to arrive by the end of 2022.