September 28, 2021

Grant Funds Provide Healthcare Options in Rural Louisiana

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When Union General Hospital had to borrow a ventilator from a neighboring hospital, it was clear that the COVID-19 pandemic had entered a critical stage. The surrounding community was especially vulnerable to the virus and outbreaks were applying immense pressure to the hospital’s quickly dwindling resources—notably the number of ventilators.

To protect both patients and healthcare workers, more resources were necessary. When circumstances were looking desperate, the hospital received much-needed funding from the LWCC Foundation. The arrival of funds from the Louisiana Well-Again: COVID-19 Response Package gave Union General the ability to purchase a ventilator, along with much-needed PPE and medical supplies.

“The funds made a difference between life and death. Without a ventilator we may have lost some patients,” said Claudia Wade, Community Development Manager for Union General Hospital. “Thanks to the funds from the LWCC Foundation, we have a ventilator to keep patients alive while in our care and waiting for a transfer to another facility.”

Union General Hospital is in rural Farmerville, Louisiana–the seat of Union Parish where residents are 86 percent more vulnerable to COVID-19 than other U.S. counties. The community has a higher vulnerability largely because of pre-existing economic, social, and physical conditions that make it hard to respond to and recover from a COVID-19 outbreak. Highly prevalent conditions in the community include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, cardiac disease, chronic kidney disease, asthma, and other respiratory illnesses–each significantly increasing the risk of severe illness from the ongoing pandemic.

Photo Courtesy of Claudia Wade, Community Development Manager, Union General Hospital

“COVID-19 has impacted how we serve our communities. We’re still closed to visitors and that really impacts the patients,” said Wade. “Recently we hit a critical stage where we couldn’t find beds for transfers, and we had to keep five patients in our ER. It’s so important for us to have the ventilator in the ER for patients in critical condition.”

For hospitals and healthcare facilities in rural areas like Union Parish, chronic condition management and transportation to clinics and hospitals are constant challenges. Many patients depend on medication management and routine check-ups to manage and improve their health, but COVID-19 still poses a tremendous threat and interferes with access to care. Union General is working toward improving management of chronic conditions but also promoting meaningful progress toward greater health equity. To meet the wide range of needs in the community, Union General has shifted hours, expanded services, and introduced telehealth and transportation solutions to increase accessibility.

“We have extended our rural health clinic hours to bring more services to our community for people to access care when they need it,” said Wade. “We are short staffed, and we have had employees working 120 hour pay periods to care for patients. It’s so hard but it shows the commitment and love our employees have for our community and patients.”

The care provided by the hospital goes further because it must. With a population of 22,721 covering 900 square miles, Union Parish is a federally designated Medically Underserved Area and a Health Professional Shortage Area with 19.4 percent living in poverty and no public transportation available. Despite the challenges, Union General Hospital and its staff of 160 people continue to serve an average of 35,059 patients every year.

Union General is also a recipient of the LWCC Foundation’s Louisiana Well-Again: COVID-19 Response Package Phase 3 grants. The hospital will receive $25,000 in funding to expand their rural tele-health program. To make an even greater impact in their community, Union General will match the grant funds from the LWCC Foundation. The intended outcome is to improve healthcare delivery systems, increase access, and decrease health disparities in the community.

“We are a small hospital, but we offer so many necessary services and the best care in the community. We are very proud of what we do. This community comes together, and we work to resolve challenges and issues regardless if they are directly healthcare related or even a natural disaster. In any circumstance, this community comes together,” said Wade.

By supporting access to healthcare, equipment that improves outcomes, and innovative solutions, grants from the LWCC Foundation are helping to prevent greater risk of severe COVID-19 illness across Union Parish and elsewhere in the state. Learn more about the company’s commitment to elevate Louisiana here.

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