After coronavirus sickened coworkers, Kansas radiology technician slept in RV to continue treating patients

He needed to be on-site at Rush County Memorial Hospital because he was the only staffer who could perform X-rays at the time

A radiology technician in Kansas says he slept in an RV outside of the rural hospital where he works to continue treating patients who needed X-rays after the novel coronavirus sickened many of his coworkers. 

Eric Lewallen told the Associated Press that he slept in the RV for more than a week after many of his fellow health care workers fell ill last month, including a doctor and physician assistant who tested positive on the same day. 

Lewallen, a radiology technician has been sleeping in an RV in the parking lot of his rural Kansas hospital because his co-workers are out sick with COVID-19 and no one else is available to take X-rays.

Lewallen, a radiology technician has been sleeping in an RV in the parking lot of his rural Kansas hospital because his co-workers are out sick with COVID-19 and no one else is available to take X-rays. (Eric Lewallen via The AP)

The technician needed to be on-site at Rush County Memorial Hospital in La Crosse because he was the only hospital staffer who could perform X-rays at the time. 

“I’m it,” Lewallen told the Associated Press. “To keep a critical access hospital open, you have to have X-ray and lab functioning,” he said. “If one of those go down, you go on diversion and you lose your ER at that point. We don’t want that to happen, especially for the community.” 

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Rush County Memorial Hospital, not unlike many other hospitals in rural America, is full — but cannot divert patients to larger hospitals in the state because they are also overwhelmed or full. 

“We are not going to waste a bed on someone who is going to die anyway. They can die in a small town and that is the sad reality of the situation,” physician assistant Kai Englert, who temporarily filled in at the La Crosse hospital, said of the attitude of larger hospitals. 

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Across the nation, health systems have warned about nearing or reaching full capacity due to the novel coronavirus, with the Mayo Clinic going so far as to set up emergency room beds in the ambulance garage. 

Rhode Island opened a field hospital in Cranston, New York is looking to expand capacity, North Texas just crossed the governor’s limit and elsewhere residents brace for another lockdown as testing positivity rates increase.

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To date, the U.S. recorded some 15 million COVID-19 cases and more than 283,500 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. 

Fox News' Alexandria Hein and the Associated Press contributed to this report.