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Hospital ICU bed capacity continues to be impacted by COVID

Published: Sep. 28, 2021 at 6:26 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Coffey County Hospital in Burlington is feeling the stresses of COVID-19 and other serious illnesses. With no ICU unit, they need to transfer patients to surrounding hospitals -- sometimes it takes hundreds of calls.

Quality Chief & Compliance Officer at Coffey Health System Stacy Augustyn said, “Every single phone call that is placed, every single ‘no’ is just another blow to that nurse that is trying to find placement for this patient.”

Senior Vice President Member and Public Relations for the Kansas Hospital Association Cindy Samuelson said they are continuing to look at ways to fund hospitals. While bringing in and retaining staff.

It can be hit or miss when finding other hospitals to transfer COVID patients. Some take one phone call but a Facebook post shows the Coffey County Hospital averages 84 phone calls and 106 miles to transfer a single patient.

One patient’s transfer took 364 calls.

“As you saw, there are times where it’s over 300 calls being placed and so of course that slows patient transfer,” said Augustyn. “They’re in our facility much longer than what we’d like them to be in our facility. We don’t have ICU capabilities here.”

Hospitals across Kansas and surrounding states are using a software called “Mission Control.” It connects each other to show the availability of ICU beds. Not all states are expecting out-of-state patients, though. Augustyn said Colorado has not been accepting them but Missouri has been doing real in their partnership.

“Although some numbers in the state look to be going in a good direction which is wonderful news, transfers are still a challenge. And over 70% of the patients they are trying to get located into a bed, people are having difficulty finding,” said Samuelson. “They are having to help hospitals find a place for patients and that’s not just covid patients. That’s all kinds of patients that need a higher level of care.”

Samuelson said it’s not only rural regions, urban hospitals feel the same stresses with hospitals losing staff during the pandemic.

“It’s really the entire system because you have people that are in dietary and facility jobs, everyone is needed and everybody is essential to be able to keep a hospital available and open,” she said. “This bed capacity issue sometimes you really understand it’s the capacity of the staff to be able to care for that patient at a hospital. And that’s something we’re still really working on in Kansas.”

Augustyn said ambulances are having to drive further than before but still only have so many hours they are allowed to travel to help get the people where they need to go.

“Working in rural health, it’s a different beast. Like I said, we just don’t have the resources that some of those larger systems have and we are keeping them as long as we can and we are not transferring them until they are at an ICU status,” she said.

Augustyn and Samuelson said a reason for this could be mitigation efforts decreasing with things coming back to normal.

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