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State hospital staffing shortages lead to rural patients dying at record rates

Hospital  shortages
Hospital shortages(KWCH)
Published: Jan. 23, 2022 at 11:24 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - As the state’s hospital system deals with unprecedented staffing shortages, rural healthcare patients are dying at record rates. According to data from Motient, nearly 80 patients died in rural hospitals waiting for a hospital bed.

“My mom was sick. they called the family in to come to tell her goodbye because they had been trying for ten days to get her transferred unsuccessfully. It just says the system is broke, and we need to fix it,” Sabrina Baker said.

Baker’s mom nearly passed in Coffey County’s hospital, before getting transferred to a Wichita hospital. In Coffey County, staffing shortages are pushing doctors—and patients— inside covid units past the breaking point.

Like most rural hospitals, the Coffey County hospital doesn’t have ICU capabilities. However, it’s now harder for urban hospitals to accept transfer patients who need a higher level of care.

“It’s difficult when you know the capabilities of the united states should be much better. We’ve definitely had our own cases with patients who required care we couldn’t provide and passed in our hospital. Would they have survived if they could’ve been transferred? Probably, and that’s our concern,” Dr. John Shell said.

Statewide data shows nearly 80 Kansans died waiting on a hospital bed since December 1st.

“As a healthcare worker that is on the inside of the walls. That’s my biggest fear for my family, my friends, my coworkers. It’s not necessarily getting covid. It’s any medical emergency. any normal routine medical emergency that occurs... if they occur right now, it could be detrimental,” Dr. Stacy Augustine said.

In McPherson, Dr. Gorman is now pleading with county leaders to reinstate a mask mandate, after wait times for hospital beds have become dangerously long.

“People that come in with heart attacks. They come in with strokes. Those are the situations where you really want to get them to their next level or care within the golden hour--that’s what we talk about--but that’s very rarely a possibility in this day in age. Our medical capabilities have been set back, I would estimate by 75 years,” Dr. Gorman said.

“I think the thing they need to hear that is most important is... of our eight COVID patients that are in the hospital now that are sick and dying, they are all not fully vaccinated and that’s the trend we’re seeing. The fully vaccinated patients are not requiring hospitalization. I think the big issue is to get your vaccination if we can prevent admission to the hospital that opens up a bed for someone who needs it. I think the vaccine is the key at this point,” Dr. Shell said.

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