As COVID trends down, lack of beds, staff worry Kansas doctors

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Published: Aug. 24, 2022 at 12:43 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WIBW) - While COVID-19 cases continue to trend downward, the lack of open beds and available staff have doctors in Northeast Kansas worried about the fall and winter seasons.

The University of Kansas Health System hosted its COVID-19 update on Wednesday, Aug. 24, with a panel of 13 chief medical officers and infectious disease doctors from around the state.

Dr. Steve Stites, Chief Medical Officer at the University of Kansas Health System, said COVID numbers were falling around the region which is a welcome sight with the new bivalent COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer that could start shipping in as soon as a week.

Dr. Dana Hawkinson, Infectious Disease Expert at KU Med, said those shots are expected to be ready by the first or second week of September while the Moderna bivalent vaccine will come later in September. He also noted that monkeypox is on the rise in the U.S. with 15,909 cases - four of those in Kansas and 38 in Missouri.

“We believe the epidemiological curves are decreasing and trends are decreasing as well. But really continuing to give that information to high-risk groups, get that vaccination into those high-risk group arms as well,” Hawkinson said of monkeypox. “I think it’s going to be vitally important. Hopefully, we will start to see a downtrend here of monkeypox as well.”

Dr. Stites also boasted a new application from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to help rural hospitals transfer COVID-19 patients to open beds in facilities better equipped to handle the virus. He said Dr. Richard Watson co-founded Motient.

Watson noted that, while COVID trends have declined the number of beds needed has not met the low threshold it had in the summer of 2021. However, he said that the beds required are not needed typically for the virus.

Stites indicated that the lack of staffing could play a big role in the need for beds.

“I’m a little nervous as we head into the fall and it’s not just COVID,” Stites said. “But overall, I’m nervous about hospital capacity.”

The sentiment sounded across the region.

Dr. Kim McGow, Chief Medical Officer at HCA Midwest Health, said while COVID cases have fallen in her hospital, the lack of beds has caused closures in some areas. However, she did say beds were opening every hour to relieve some of the stress on the system.

McGown noted that the lack of beds truly is a staffing issue.