‘I’m it’: Rad tech sleeps in RV for days to help overwhelmed rural hospital stay open

A rural Kansas hospital was so overwhelmed by COVID-19 recently that one of its radiologic technologists slept in his RV outside for more than a week to help keep it open.

Eric Lewallen is a Gulf War veteran and alfalfa farmer who moonlights as a rad tech at Rush County Memorial Hospital in La Crosse, Kansas. The institution has experienced staff shortages, including both a doctor and physician assistant testing positive the same day, briefly leaving it without anyone to write a prescription.

Lacking a deep bullpen and unable to send patients elsewhere, Lewallen started sleeping onsite to be available for imaging exams on short notice, the AP reported Monday.

“I’m it,” he told the news service. “To keep a critical access hospital open, you have to have x-ray and lab functioning. 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.”

La Crosse is a small town of just 1,300 that has struggled with the pandemic, including rising case numbers and an outbreak at the local nursing home. Larger Hays Medical Center nearby often takes transfers. But also grappling with the crisis, it turned away 103 such requests in November, the AP noted. Previously, the provider had only done so twice over the course of 14 years.

Read more from the Associated Press below.