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Coffey Co. Hospital continuing care for patients despite troubles to transfer Covid and non-Covid patients

Published: Jan. 6, 2022 at 4:29 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Rural hospitals continue to struggle to transfer patients.

As we told you in September, it took the Coffey County Hospital, which is a division of Coffey Health System, more than 360 calls to get a single patient the care they needed.

A Facebook post from Coffey Health System this week shows it takes them on average more than 150 calls and 145 miles to transfer them now. It can take anywhere from 1.5 hours to an eight-day wait to get them over to the new location.

They use a software called “Mission Control” that connects hospitals to show available ICU beds for transfers, but surrounding states are no longer allowing out-of-state transfers leaving them struggling.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Shell said, “States are so overburdened as well they’re basically saying we’re only going to take people within our own state. So now that’s limited us to the only tertiary care centers we have in Kansas so now we’re really at a loss for places to transfer.”

Chief Quality and Compliance Officer Stacy Augustyn said the pandemic has caused the staff to work outside their normal duties.

“They’re stressed out, they’re burnt out, they’re stretched very thin but they’re doing absolutely everything they can and we have some phenomenal staff members that have really stepped up and learned new skills so we can care for these patients as long as we possibly can but it’s absolutely taking a toll on everybody,” she said.

Manpower is a major issue though despite the individuals stepping up to help out their common good.

“The problem with Covid patients when they get sicker in the hospital they don’t go home in a couple of days like somebody maybe with normal pneumonia, they may be here 10 days, two weeks, three weeks so they’re taking up a bed and you get another Covid patient and it keeps escalating to the point you’re inundated with patients,” he said.

More patients are coming in to get tested and they’ve been fortunate with their supplies, so far.

“I was meeting with lab and our Infection Control team before we started speaking and we are going to have to start looking for supplies now because we’re going through them so quickly,” said Augustyn. “We always try to err on the side of caution as well with our staff so anytime our staff has any sort of exposure, we’re following CDC and KDHE guidelines and if they recommend a test on day 5 post-exposure, we’re testing our employees day 5 post-exposure and so we’re going through a lot of testing supplies with our employees.

Coffey Health keeps up with CDC and KDHE webinars and phone calls and updates, but it’s also the strong partnerships with Emporia and Topeka hospitals keeping them afloat.

“I don’t want to give the message that the bigger hospitals aren’t there for us. They want to be there for us, they just don’t have the capacity to be there for us right now,” said Shell. “The unfortunate thing is that it trickles down to us and puts us in compromising situations.”

The two said the key factor in slowing the transfer woes and hospital capacity struggles – vaccination and booster doses for those that are eligible.

“how long does this last? I don’t know. In 30 years, this is the worst health care crisis I’ve ever been involved with” said Shell.

Augustyn said, “We need everyone to do their part.”

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