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Stormont Vail looking into new forms of staff support to cope with COVID-19 deaths

Published: Dec. 1, 2020 at 7:11 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - In a virtual news conference Tuesday, Stormont Vail Health President and CEO Dr. Robert Kenagy said the hospital is caring for 93 COVID-19 patients and its medical beds are 90 percent occupied.

According to Kenagy, over 200 team members are out due to virus exposure both in and out of the workplace, making staffing the key factor that dictates the amount of patients that can be cared for by the hospital.

He said the hospital has been practicing enhanced primary care, which categorizes the severity of the presence of COVID-19 in patients, as a method to provide beds in the hospital with those who have the most serious needs.

Kenagy reported 18 percent of all COVID-19-related deaths at Stormont Vail, which totals 22 people, have occurred within the last week.

“It’s not common for our teams to lose that many patients,” he said.

“We are hampered by the COVID experience here we are hampered that in our usual customs that we’re not able to give context and meaning that we are regularly.”

Kenagy choked up as he recalled that a nurse lost four patients to the virus in one shift saying it takes a toll on hospital workers and impacts the way grief is handled.

“This experience has promises to impact us for the long-term and one that we are actively working on trying to plan for ways to share the grief to share the experience to share the meaning of caring with those who are dying,” he said.

“This COVID experience has affected not only our entire staff but our community and the way we deal with death and dying and the way our common rituals and common customs of grieving and processing death and dying have all been significantly impacted.”

He said hospital leadership is investing in ways to give support to the staff.

“It’s finding ways to make sure that number one we check in with each other everyday and number two find a way that we meaningfully share the burden of the experience.”

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