Kansas hospitals still overwhelmed despite small decrease in COVID patients

Published: Jan. 26, 2022 at 2:57 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Across the state, hospitals have begun seeing a small decrease, or a plateau, in the number of COVID patients seeking care over the past week or so, but they say they’re still more overwhelmed now than they were in August during the peak of the Delta variant.

While cases of the omicron variant drop across parts of the globe, Kansas isn’t one of those areas.

During a briefing on Wednesday, Dr. Steven Stites, Chief Medical Officer at KU Health System, said Kansas is seeing the largest per capita increase in cases of any state in the United States, and hospitals are more overwhelmed than during previous COVID surges, struggling to meet patient’s needs.

Some patients are spending hours or days in the ER waiting for a bed to open up, and elective surgeries are being cut as a result. Plus, the staff is out sick, too.

“We had 120 out, 85 who are positive. To put that into perspective, if it’s a 10-day out, which it currently is for healthcare workers, that’s 850 days which is a little over two years of lost workforce, if you look at it as one person,” said Dr. Robert Freelove, Vice President and Chief Medical Officer for Salina Regional Medical Center.

He and other chief medical officers across the state warn that while omicron may be less severe for some, more people are catching it than previous variants, meaning the state is still seeing the same amount of deaths as with previous surges.

“The death numbers are really high, and this is the problem,” said Dr. Freelove. “When you have twice as many patients as you ever had with COVID, your deaths are still going to be high because you’re still going to have a lot of people who are dying. And the idea that ‘Oh, it’s just a cold’ is just wrong.”

Dr. Freelove said his hospital is averaging about one death every other day, which is significant for a community the size of Salina.

As of Wednesday, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported more than 14,163 new cases of COVID-19, 141 new hospitalizations and 52 new deaths. The positive percentage did drop to 29.6%. There have been 924 new cases of COVID-19 in Sedgwick County, two new deaths, with a positive percentage of 23.3%. As of Monday, 294 people were in the hospital for COVID-19, and 72 are on the ICU.

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