Arizona COVID-19 patient air transferred to further facility due to local hospital bed shortage

An ambulance crew took a COVID-19 patient from Holy Cross Hospital in Nogales, Ariz., to the Nogales International Airport for a long-haul transfer instead of bringing the patient to a neighboring county's hospital due to an apparent capacity crunch, the Nogales International reported Dec. 1. 

The patient was instead transferred to Flagstaff via a medical transport plane — the first instance of bed availability leading to a local patient being flown to a further facility, Richard Johnson, deputy chief of the Rio Rico Fire District, told the Nogales International. 

Despite potential federal funds from COVID-19-related relief, Mr. Johnson said airplane medical transports could be expensive. 

"Even with federal money involved, it would be cost-prohibitive for the most part," he said. "I don't know what the cost would be, but I know an emergency helicopter ride runs into the tens of thousands of dollars. I can't imagine what a fixed-wing going 300 miles is going to be." 

Holy Cross is the only hospital in Santa Cruz County, so critical COVID-19 patients have typically been treated at other nearby hospitals, usually in Tucson. When bed capacity started filling in June and July, RRFD said it started transporting some patients as far as Phoenix or Sierra Vista. As coronavirus infections rise again, Mr. Johnson told Nogales International the ambulance crew has taken about five patients to Phoenix hospitals in the last three weeks. 


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