Tom says that the small, rural, Little Colorado facility reached its maximum capacity last week, and it resulted in a case-by-case decision of whom to let in. The hospital only has two ventilators, 22 beds, five OB beds (like a stretcher) and one emergency room doctor during the day. They have two ambulances and are hoping to get a third soon. “We probably have the most limited resources and fewest beds for a facility for 17,000 people,” Tom said. With so few doctors and a growing number of patients, personal protective equipment (PPE) becomes vital, but that has also been hard to acquire. Tom said it takes at least a month to deliver supplies such as masks to the hospital, and they never get dates for when to expect a new shipment. The staff has had to get creative with makeshift surgical masks sewn together and plastic folders cut into visors and attached to foam with super glue. Meanwhile, Tom paid out of her own pocket for a shipment of masks from someone she knows in manufacturing.
With the Navajo Nation in the final stretch of a 57-hour weekend curfew, the tribe reported 1,716 #COVID19 positive cases. There's been 59 #Coronavirus related deaths on the largest reservation in the United States. #Arizona #NewMexico #Utah https://t.co/HjVHIEWumw pic.twitter.com/BNVc1B4pUo— indianz.com (@indianz) April 27, 2020
Tom said one of the best ways to help the situation at her facility is to donate or send PPE, such as N95 masks, surgical gowns and Hazmat suits. Tom stressed that if the doctors get the virus, there won’t be anyone left to care for the patients. Tom said she would also like to enlist an engineer to develop a negative-pressure room, a way to isolate a patient, but the hospital does not have the funds to hire anyone. The virus is draining the resources of the Little Colorado Medical Center so much that Tom is concerned that the facility will go under once the pandemic is managed. “We’re losing so much revenue as it is already,” she said. “I don’t know if that hospital will survive after this. That’s what our fear is. We don’t know, because it was barely surviving before.” Little Colorado is a nonprofit public hospital that has been largely overlooked, but Tom has garnered more media attention recently.
Protect the Sacred
Protect the Sacred, Harness + We Stand United are hosting a call to curfew for all Navajo youth to stay in and stop the spread of #COVID19. ***To take the Navajo Hero and Shero Youth Challenge or find out where you can donate go to www.protectthesacred.care and sign UP!*** JoinNavajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer, Radmilla Cody, Mark Ruffalo, Taika Waititi, and #PaulRuddPosted by Protect the Sacred on Friday, April 10, 2020
There is still help needed across the country, however, and a lot of it is required at Little Colorado. In basketball terms, this is a team effort and the medical professionals are the star players. Everyone else needs to do their job to get them the ball, the supplies and resources and exposure they need to score, or beat the virus. Maybe the attention will further help Tom, who has had to quarantine in her co-worker’s home away from her family during the crisis. “I hope it directly helps her situation,” Turner Thorne said. “She’s trying to serve 17,000 people and they never got any federal supplies. They got some in Window Rock and some of the other communities on the reservation. They (Little Colorado) didn’t.” Tom’s primary message to anyone at home is to stay there. “The more people stay home and are mindful and not sharing this disease is the only way I think that the numbers are going to come down,” she said. “It’s all spread by people. That’s all it is. And if we stop spreading it, it goes away. It just goes away. So, don’t go anywhere you don’t need to.” To donate to the Little Colorado Medical Center, send items to Christy Ross/Dr. Michelle Tom at 1501 N Williamson Ave in Winslow, Arizona 86047. For more stories from Cronkite News, visit cronkitenews.azpbs.org.
Note: This story originally appeared on Cronkite News and is published via a Creative Commons license. Cronkite News is produced by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.