Kansas only halfway through Omicron surge as doctors warn of staffing shortages

Published: Jan. 28, 2022 at 6:09 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - With the Omicron peak nearing, local and national health experts have warned that Kansas is only halfway through the surge as the state’s hospitals see all-time staffing lows.

As the nation nears a COVID-19 peak with the Omicron variant, Mayo Clinic experts warn the country is only halfway through the surge.

“There are going to be thousands of infections and hospitalizations on the way back down, too,” said Dr. Curtis Storlie, a Mayo Clinic data scientist.

On Friday, Jan. 28, the University of Kansas Health System St. Francis Campus in Topeka says on a statewide news conference with chief medical officers from Kansas and Missouri this week, including its own Dr. Jackie Hyland, doctors sounded the alarm on the COVID-19 situation in their communities and hospitals.

St. Francis said doctors reported a slight improvement from the previous week, however, all of them warned of continued high COVID transmission and positivity rates, as well as staffing shortages, which mean the situation is still critical in the Sunflower State.

The KU Health hospital said staff in all areas continue to take extraordinary precautionary measures to provide care for all patients. It said teams have worked together to develop creative solutions to manage high patient volumes and critical staffing needs.

St. Francis said it has implemented an All Hands On Deck program, which places non-clinical staff in patient care areas to help with non-patient care duties.

The KU hospital said it also continues to strongly encourage everyone to get vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19, wear a mask when social distancing is not possible and stay home if sick. These measures have proven effective from earlier in the pandemic.

As of Friday, St. Francis said it had 34 COVID-positive inpatients, 69% of which were unvaccinated. The Critical Care Unit was at capacity at 90% and the Medical/Surgical Unit was at 88% capacity. There were also 24 associates in isolation.

On Friday, St. Francis said it had five requests for direct admission, all of which it was able to accept.

Stormont Vail Health in Topeka also said staff in non-clinical areas have stepped up to help during this most recent surge. Dalton Dean is the Volunteer Relations Coordinator, but if you peaked in his office, he would most likely not be there.

Instead, Stormont Vail said Dean can be found at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing clinic every weekday from 8 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. He has been there every day since infections began to spike again in the region.

“I just wanted to be able to help the hospital as much as I can,” Dalton said. “I just like to help the team.”

Dean said it has been eye-opening to see the number of people getting tested right now, which paints the picture of just how long the days are and tough the team is, especially in cold temperatures.

Stormont Vail said its testing site stays open in the cold, rain, sleet and snow because of its dedicated team members.

Even through the long, cold days, Dean said the team stays positive and enjoys working together.

“It is going to take all employees for us to get through these crazy times. I have noticed that we do have a lot of Stormont Vail employees who are coming over to the clinics and helping them out just like I am, so I think we are doing a great job with that.”

Dean said he has actually had a great time working at the clinic since he has met people that he probably would not otherwise.

As of Friday, Stormont Vail said it had 75 COVID-positive inpatients, 88% of which were unvaccinated, as well as 102 patients in its Enhanced Primary Care outpatient program.

Since Thursday, staff at Stormont Vail recorded three COVID-related deaths and 14 discharges.

The health network said 40% of people tested for the virus at its facilities in the past week tested positive.

Stormont Vail said there were 224 team members and 12 providers out on contact leave for COVID. This has decreased from the 258 members and 13 providers on Jan. 21. It said this high level of positive team members impacts the hospital’s ability to staff clinics and hospital areas at a time when it has already been challenged with a labor shortage.

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