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Kansas hospitals are short-staffed, forcing some patients to travel miles for care

Coronavirus in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Kansas hospitals struggle to keep up with an increasing number of patients as they face staffing shortages.

Cindy Samuelson, a spokesperson for Kansas Hospital Association, told The Kansas Capitol Bureau on Friday that nearly all hospitals in the Kansas City metro area have reported being understaffed, forcing patients to be transferred to other hospitals, sometimes several states away, for care.

“We’re in a time of flux right now,” Samuelson said. “We’ve had patients going to states not bordering Kansas, which is, unfortunately, farther than we’d like patients to have to seek care.”

It’s causing a strain on workers and patients, as they struggle to find hospitals with enough space to take them, having to travel hours away from home for help.

While hospitals are filling up with patients suffering from various issues, Dr. Clif Jones, an infectious disease specialist at Stormont Vail Hospital in Topeka, has pointed to the number of patients suffering from severe illness also increasing as the highly contagious delta variant spreads.

“I think currently, our count is about a third of our in-patients are in critical care units,” Dr. Jones said.

According to health officials, the delta variant is more than twice as infectious as other strains of coronavirus.

Samuelson said in addition to healthcare workers being overwhelmed by the stress brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, the increasing amount of cases could also contribute to staffing shortages.

As of Friday, state data shows 1,983 delta variant cases have been identified in Kansas.

According to Samuelson, about 15%-20% of vaccinated healthcare workers have reported infections, or “breakthrough cases,” pulling them away from work as they try to recover. She said that’s why it’s important to follow the necessary safety measures to keep the virus under control.

“They’re not necessarily getting COVID in the workplace. It might be at the grocery store or out in the community where the virus is spreading.”

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