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Kansas hospitals feel strain of COVID surge

Published: Nov. 9, 2020 at 10:32 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Hospitals across the state are feeling the impact of the rise in COVID-19 cases. The Kansas Dept. of Health and Environment showed Monday more than 60 percent of the state’s ICU beds are filled.

Not only are beds filling up. Illness, quarantine orders, and at-home school demands are causing shortages of staff to take care of you when you’re sick..

“A lot of planning is going on, a lot of monitoring,” said Cindy Samuelson, Senior Vice President of Member and Public Relations for the Kansas Hospital Assoc.

KHA’s Monday dashboard shows the Kansas City Metro and South Central Kansas area hospitals hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 40 percent of those hospitals anticipate staffing shortages this week. Three of the 21 hospitals in the Northeast Kansas region do as well.

“All the folks that work in the hospitals and in health care also live in the community. They go to the grocery store. If they go to an event and there is an outbreak or there’s someone who’s been diagnosed and they’ve been exposed, they follow the same recommendations that you or I would follow by quarantining themselves, which takes them out of the workforce to care for patients,” Samuelson said, noting many also are parents who might miss work when their children’s school shifts to remote learning.

View hospital capacity data from KS Dept. of Health and Environment

At the same time, many hospitals also are seeing more patients coming in, both from COVID and other illnesses. According to Monday’s KHA data, KC-area hospitals have only 10 percent of ICU beds available. It’s 12 percent in the South Central region.

Among Northeast Kansas facilities, Topeka’s Stormont Vail was treating 54 COVID-19 positive patients Monday - it’s highest of the pandemic. They also reported 74 percent of ICU beds in use.

University of Kansas Health System - St. Francis Campus had 10 COVID-positive patients and 83 percent of critical care beds filled.

Ascension Via Christi in Manhattan also hit a daily patient high Monday, with six COVID-positive, and one more under investigation. Four of those patients were in the ICU.

In Emporia, Newman Regional Health had five COVID-positive patients and 26 critical access hospital patients. All six of their ICU beds are full. A Newman spokesperson says part of their staffing challenges stem from

Newman and other hospitals also are finding locating a place to transfer patients isn’t as easy. Samuelson says, normally, if a patients needs to be transferred for a higher level of care, a hospital need only make a couple calls, and is able to find a facility not far away.

“In our current environment, hospitals are having to make a lot more calls, and in many cases, our patients are have to be transferred farther than they normally would have to be,” Samuelson said.

A Newman spokesperson says part of their staffing challenges stem from the intensity of caring for COVID patients. Not only do they often require a longer hospital stay, the staffing ratio is almost double what’s required for a typical medical or surgical patient.

Samuelson says hospitals are managing for now. But, she says, the public plays a role in keeping it that way.

“By helping reduce community spread, they help keep our staff in hospitals to care for patients, which then in turns helps us when we need care - emergent or COVID or otherwise - to be able to get that care close to home where we need it,” she said.

Those preventive steps, she says, sound like a broken record: wash your hands, wear masks, and social distance.

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