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Rural Kansas hospitals may be ‘2 or 3’ patients away from bed shortage

Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 7:55 AM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - In the coming weeks, some Kansas hospitals may be forced to choose which patients receive care.

For small, rural hospitals, it would only take a few patients to get to that point.

Doctor Brian Holmes with Abilene Memorial Health System said his hospital has never faced such circumstances, and having to make the difficult decision on which patients receive care is essentially an impossible task.

“How are you going to choose who gets what?” Holmes said. “Do you base it on age, comorbidities, do you base it on if it’s your friend or your friend’s family member?”

Intensive care patients don’t usually stay in the hospital for long, but COVID-19 patients can stay for months.

That puts a strain on smaller hospitals that have fewer beds and less equipment, and transfers to larger hospitals that are equally overwhelmed is not feasible.

The looming shortage of beds could also impact Non-Covid patients, which is why Dr. Holmes says people should be extra careful, avoiding risks that could lead to hospitalization.

“We have two BiPAPs and three Vapotherm machines,” Holmes said, referring to treatments for respiratory issues. “And at one time we had two Vapotherm and one BiPAP being used by Covid patients. It would take only two or three more patients to come in and overwhelm us with Covid that need oxygen at a high flow.

“And all of the sudden you’re picking and choosing who gets to be on these machines and who doesn’t.”

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