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ICU beds reaching capacity in western Kansas, hospitals stretched thin

Coronavirus in Kansas

KEARNY COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – The KDHE tracks the number of ICU beds available across the state. The number changes each day. 

The KDHE reports ICU beds are limited in the southwest region of the state.

During the week of October 17, between 10 to 25% of ICU beds were available for patients with COVID-19 or other illnesses.

The most recent numbers show that some days recently only 9% of ICU beds were available in the region.

As of October 27, only two beds remained open.

With many hospitals stretched thin and ICU beds scarce, southwest Kansas doctors urge the community to take the virus seriously as concerns of an overwhelmed healthcare system are raised.

Kearny County hospital is among many rural hospitals that do not have an ICU. When patients need further care, they are transferred to the nearest, critical care unit, but sometimes that’s not an option.

“We have found that the ICU beds are very hard to come by,” said Drew Miller, M.D. at Kearny County Hospital.

In Kearny County, doctors KSN spoke with have seen an increase in COVID cases.

Dr. Miller said he was recently treating a COVID-19 patient whose health was deteriorating.

“We are doing our best to take care of COVID patients in our local hospital as best as we can,” said Miller.

The small hospital had reached its resource and respiratory capabilities and his patient needed to be transferred for further care, but, he says that day, no ICU beds were available.

He says this has occurred several times in just the past week alone.

“The regional hospitals we would transfer to, are full,” he said.

He says his patient had to wait and hope a bed would open up, and the next day one did.

Dr. Miller says the feeling of not being able to give a patient the level of care they need when they need it, was uncomfortable.

“It was an uncomfortable and difficult time to not have the opportunity to transfer a patient,” he said. “We can’t afford for this to get worse. It will start compromising the care that we can give to patients who are sick.”

Kearny County Hospital, as well as surrounding hospitals, have been working together to help provide the care patients need in all situations, but doctors want to stress, the community needs to help as well by wearing a mask, washing your hands, and watching your distance. 

As for the three major hospitals in the area, Southwest Medical Center in Liberal says their bed availability has been strained. St. Catherine’s Hospital in Garden City says they’re seeing an increase in patients requiring a higher level of care. Officials point out some patients with medical issues not related to COVID are delaying care, putting them in a more serious situation when they are treated. The third major hospital, Western Plains Medical Complex in Dodge City, did not want to comment.

For more information on Kansas hospital capacity, click here.

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