EMPORIA, Kans. (KSNW) — Hospitals across Kansas are feeling the strain not just on staffing but on supplies as well. One hospital, in particular, ran out of ventilators on Friday as the state continued to report a surge in COVID-19 cases.
On Friday, Jan. 7, a local emergency was declared for the Newman Regional Health hospital in Emporia by the Lyons County Board when they ran short of ventilators. This declaration will help the hospital recieve two additional ventilators from the state.
“The hospital had used all the ventilators that they had, and they were in need of some more,” said Rollie Martin, chairman of the Lyon County Board of Commissioners.
“This is probably the worst we’ve been with ventilators. We try very, very hard not to have to put people on ventilator support,” explained Dr. Alana Longwell, Newman Regional Health’s chief medical officer.
Later that day, a helicopter was on its way to Emporia with two ventilators. Dr. Longwell says one of the ventilators is already in use. She added that ventilators aren’t just needed for COVID patients but many areas of the hospital.
“We have vents that we try to reserve for babies who are born prematurely and may need a vent, and we’re at the point where if we’re in a pinch, we may have to use one of those temporarily in order to bridge till we can get something and that may make that vent out of use for a newborn baby,” Dr. Longwell said.
She warns if the shortage does not improve, they might be forced to use battlefield medicine.
“Where we have to make snap decisions about who has the best likelihood of survival and potentially not provide those highest levels of support for patients who have lower levels of survival,” Dr. Longwell said. “That’s not what any of us went into medicine to do. That’s not what any of us want to do.”
For Hutchinson Regional Medical Center, the concern isn’t ventilators but other respiratory machines.
“The midlevel breathing apparatus. So the air hose, the BiPAPS, those are the externals that have a mask or a tube that goes up your nose that helps you breathe with a little bit of positive pressure. Those we are getting close to running out of,” said Chuck Welch, Chief Strategy Officer for Hutchinson Regional Health System.
Both hospitals are unsure when the shortage will improve.
“We’re not in a place to be held hopeful yet. We’re not in a place to let our guard down yet,” Dr. Longwell said.
“We are preparing for the worst and praying for the best,” Welch said.