Sedgwick County hospitals move to ‘critical’ stage for COVID-19

Published: Aug. 18, 2021 at 2:45 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Hospitals in Sedgwick County have moved to a critical stage when it comes to caring for patients with COVID-19.

The news comes facilities strain to treat patients with the virus locally and from other locations around the state.

According to the Area Hospital Status Assessment, there are now 180 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 compared to 147 on Monday; 61 are now in the ICU compared to 56 a couple of days ago. The county added 142 cases of COVID-19 since Tuesday and two new deaths.

“If you compare our numbers and the pace of growth, it’s like we were at the end of October to the beginning of November when our surge really took over and our hospitals transitioned to primarily COVID-based care,” said Wesley Medical Center ICU Medical Director Dr. Chloe Steinshouer who is a pulmonary and critical care physician.

Wichita hospitals are back in the red.

“We are not able to take care of everything that we need to take care of in the community because our hospitals are being filled with preventable illness at this point,” Dr. Steinshouer said.

Dr. Sam Antonios, Chief Clinical Officer at Ascension Via Christi, issued the following statement regarding the current situation of hospitals in Sedgwick County:

“Our Wichita hospitals are unseasonably full, with 74 patients requiring care for COVID-19 and hundreds of others for other conditions. We continue to admit and discharge patients all day, every day, along with caring for patients in our ERs. However, for every patient we move out of a hospital room or ICU bed, another patient is waiting to be moved in.

We have not yet made changes to visitation, but may have to if the situation doesn’t improve.

We soon will be heading into a time of year where all types of respiratory illnesses and hospitalizations are on the increase. Our staff is tired and need your support to turn this around.

Our physicians, nurses and other caregivers are doing their part to meet the community’s needs and they need everyone in the community to do theirs and get vaccinated if they are eligible, wear a mask when in the company of others, avoid large gatherings and practice good hand hygiene,” said Dr. Antonios.

Kansas reported 3,006 new cases of COVID-19 since Monday, 62 new deaths and 98 new hospitalizations. The state says 43.8% of Kansans have been fully vaccinated.

In discussing the numbers, Dr. Steinshouer said COVID-19 is “one of the most infectious respiratory viruses that (doctors) have ever dealt with in history.”

“And it’s significantly more deadly than the flu and it takes up a lot of resources when people are sick,” she said.

Dr. Steinshouer said the patients Wesley Medical Center is seeing are younger and at least 95 percent are unvaccinated.

“Delta (variant) is so much more contagious and involving so many more age groups that we’re seeing a wide spread of the community,” she said.

Dr. Steinshouer said unlike the surge hospitals experienced last fall into early this year, they can’t count on backup healthcare workers to help with the current situation.

“When we are overwhelmed, there’s only so far we can go,” she said. “And if the entire country is overwhelmed, segments of the country are overwhelmed, we don’t have a pool of resources to draw from.”

Dr. Steinshouer said that makes prevention essential right now. This includes masking, distancing, quarantining when necessary and getting vaccinated.

“Vaccine is the biggest thing,” she said. “Once you’re really sick with COVID, I have supportive measures. I don’t have anything that turns it around.”

Dr. Steinshouer said as Wichita hospitals fill up, it ripples throughout Kansas. Talking with regional hospitals, she said when they need to move a patient to a higher level of care, it requires calling upwards of 25 hospitals in multiple states to find an available bed for COVID and non-COVID patients.

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