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'It looks like there’s a catastrophe' | Rural hospitals overwhelmed with COVID patients while dealing with staff shortages

The Texas Emergency Hospital in Cleveland may look calm on the outside, but on the inside, it’s getting more and more stressful every day.

HOUSTON — From nursing shortages to ER surges, hospitals across Texas are dealing with a massive influx of COVID-19 patients.

RELATED: Texas Medical Center hospitals preparing for an unprecedented surge in COVID patients

“It’s a completely different battle than what we had to deal with last year," Chief Nursing Officer for Emergency Hospital Systems Cassie Kavanaugh said.

And that includes the small ones.

“It looks like there’s a catastrophe," Kavanaugh said.

The Texas Emergency Hospital in Cleveland may look calm on the outside, but on the inside, it’s getting more and more stressful every day.

“We’re having to put more people in the hospital this go around, and also in our ER, where all of the rooms are full, we’re having to help people in the hallways,"  COO for Emergency Hospital Systems Patti Foster said.

“We’re seeing more patients, more critical patients than we saw last year," Kavanaugh said.

One startling new addition ... children. During the past year, Kavanaugh said they only saw a handful of kids admitted with COVID. But now, it's much worse.

“It is not uncommon for us to have to ship out to Texas Children's almost on a daily basis right now," Kavanaugh said.

And because the hospital is smaller, the more severe cases are sent to the larger hospitals, but they, too, are running out of room. So they’re sending patients anywhere they can, as far as Oklahoma.

“Virtually, getting anybody out is impossible at this time," Foster said.

Foster said the hospital is also dealing with a nursing staff shortage.

“Our staff is getting sick with COVID, which means we’re less staffed," Foster said.

And being in a small town makes hiring that much harder.

“It is a little bit more difficult for us in a rural setting to get people out to our areas," Kavanaugh said.

Foster says 75% of their COVID patients are unvaccinated and said their symptoms are the most severe. So she hopes people at home understand just how vital the vaccine is.

“This is the only way we’re going to try to get a grip on what is happening in our world today," Foster said.