Hello, I’m Benji Hardy, the new editor of the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network, and I’d like to ask you to support ANNN for Giving Tuesday. Thanks to the NewsMatch program, donations between now and the end of the year are matched dollar for dollar. That includes monthly recurring donations — if you pledge to give $10 a month for the coming year, for example, NewsMatch will match us for the full year-long commitment ($120).
To explain why ANNN matters, let me talk a little about our most recent story — a close look at the increasingly worrisome COVID-19 situation in Arkansas hospitals by reporter David Ramsey.
We’ve all seen the daily updates of the state’s new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations (which reached a new high of 1,063 on Monday). We’ve all heard vague warnings on the news about how hospitals could be overwhelmed this winter. And the public has received reassurances from hospital administrators and Governor Hutchinson that the health care system can handle the increased caseload.
But what do the numbers actually mean? Are Arkansas hospitals in danger of filling up, or are they getting by? How much “capacity” can they really add? We weren’t seeing those questions answered, and we wanted to know more.
To get the full picture, Dave and I knew we needed to talk to health care providers who might be unable to speak on the record. So, we put the word out on social media. We asked for nurses, doctors and others on the front lines to contact us, promising we would keep them anonymous if needed. The response was overwhelming: Hospital workers badly wanted to talk to us about what they’ve seen.
In short: Yes, hospitals are coping … but they’re reaching their limits. Very sick COVID patients can linger in the ICU for weeks, taking up critical bed space and reducing overall capacity. Nurses (especially the highly trained nurses that work in ICUs) are in desperately short supply. Meanwhile, COVID admissions just keep on rising. If current trends continue, doctors and nurses warned us, quality of care will suffer and more people will die as a result.
Dave and I easily put 80 hours into this story, not counting help from colleagues and friends of ANNN. We interviewed eight nurses and doctors (and contacted many more), along with hospital CEOs, health department officials and other experts. But, the work was worth it. We have a story that answers many of our original questions … and sources to help us do further reporting, and ask even deeper questions, down the road.
This vital story wouldn’t exist without the generosity of ANNN’s many individual donors. Nor would the other work we’ve done in 2020 — about the toll of the pandemic on public school staff, on poultry plant workers, on prisoners, on renters and others. About Black Lives Matters protests in rural Arkansas, about families locked out of unemployment insurance, about the state’s harsh eviction laws and more.
ANNN’s mission is to produce journalism that matters to Arkansans. Please help us keep reporting throughout the pandemic and beyond by making a donation today.