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Wichita hospital urges county leaders to add new restrictions to health order

Published: Nov. 18, 2020 at 5:15 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Urging Sedgwick County leaders to add new restrictions to the current local health order, the CEO of Wesley Medical Center on Wednesday shared some alarming statistics with county commissioners. The hospital says it does not have the staff or the bed space to handle another increase in patients.

“One out of 10 admissions to the hospital that have COVID-19 do not leave alive,” Wesley Medical Center CEO Bill Voloch told commissioners.

The hospital’s request to county leaders comes as we see another sobering number from Sedgwick County. The latest data from the county’s COVID-19 dashboard shows the positive test rate for the virus at 28.4 percent.

The eye-opening stat Voloch shared with the Sedgwick County Commission is taking a toll on healthcare workers.

“All of our staff are certainly used to dealing with death and dying, but they’re not used to it being so frequent,” Wesley Medical Center Associate Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lowell Ebersole said. “Literally, someone is dying every day at our hospital. Sometimes it’s several people a day.”

The tighter restrictions the hospital recommends include temporarily closing bars, nightclubs and event venues, restaurants operating through take-out only, ending sports games at all levels, and reducing gathering sizes to fewer than 10 people.

Health officials warn without these changes, the future for local hospitals, not just Wesley, looks grim.

“We have a certain capacity. We’re going to get to the point where we can’t take any more patients. Because we just don’t have enough staff,” Voloch said. “Yes, we are flying in some critical-care physicians to help us. We may have to bring in other physicians to help us out. The rate-limiting step will be the physical capacity we have at Wesley Medical Center.”

Voloch said Wesley has enough staff to handle its current amount of patients, but any more will stretch doctors and nurses thin. The biggest concern now is bed space. With COVID-19 taking up so much of the hospital’s resources, that could mean trouble for patients in need who don’t have COVID-19.

“We may not have the space or staffing capabilities to care for those patients,” Voloch said.

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