How the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. is battling COVID-19

Published: Nov. 20, 2020 at 8:42 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Thursday was National Rural Health Day and in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, it presented a good reason to check in on one of Alaska’s hardest-hit rural regions, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.

Dr. Ellen Hodges is the Chief of Staff for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. and she explains one of the biggest obstacles nurses, patients and doctors face in the isolated western Alaskan region. “We just don’t have the backup and the resources that other places have and it’s easier for us to get overwhelmed. We don’t have an ICU so if we have a patient that needs ICU level care and all the ICU beds in the state are full it’s not like we can hold them somewhere that usually takes care of ICU patients,” Hodges said.

YKHC serves 58 rural communities. Some of those villages have been in lockdown for weeks. Just recently, YKHC recommended that all of them follow suit. Though sparsely populated, the YK Delta is now leading the state in per capita infections. There are 152.3 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, the Department of Health and Social Services said.

“What we’re seeing is terrible, we’re seeing increased deaths, increased hospitalizations, increased cases, people are afraid for themselves and their family,” Hodges said. “I’m afraid for people, these are my friends and family that are on the front line here but just to see the team come together it’s really, it’s inspiring. In spite of all the difficulties, I think that’s what’s going to get us through.”

The YK Delta area is receiving a shipment of rapid COVID-19 antigen tests. Until that shipment arrives, patients have to go to a clinic, that test then has to be sent to Bethel, then from Bethel, the test has to be shipped to Anchorage. With these new tests, they can get results much faster and with fewer impediments along the way.

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