TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — Hospitals in Kansas are rebounding from challenges experienced during the pandemic.
Those issues, especially in northeast Kansas, ranged from staffing shortages to limited ICU capacity. In January, Stormont Vail Hospital in Topeka was one of several hospitals across the state that had to turn away transfer patients seeking care.
As Kansas transitions into an “endemic,” Dr. Clifton Jones, an infectious disease physician at the hospital, said they’re still on the road to recovery.
“We’re still recovering from people that got out of healthcare and are no longer working in healthcare, so certain positions are still a challenge to keep filled,” Jones said. “We’re managing, I think, very well…accepting transfers, which is one of the heartaches that we were having. Our ability to staff beds has improved, but we’re still not where we were two years ago.”
While doctors, like Jones, predict there could still be a high level of cases that aren’t being reported due to more at-home tests being conducted, they say those cases are “minimally symptomatic.” However, Jones said, the less severe cases could be attributed to the omicron variant surge earlier in the year, providing a wider spread of immunity for people that were infected.
With cases moving in the “right direction” according to state health officials, operations at the state level have also changed. Matthew Lara, a spokesperson for the state health department, said most KDHE testing and vaccine sites have been discontinued.
“There are some tactical changes to phase our response from emergency to endemic, like the amount of data we are tracking. We have also discontinued most KDHE testing and vaccine sites. While the state has entered into a new normal, Kansans should use the tools available to protect themselves. This includes staying up to date on vaccination, getting tested, staying home when sick, and wearing a mask in high-transmission areas.”Matthew Lara, Kansas Department of Health & Environment
Hospitals in the Kansas City-metro area are also making adjustments to their operations.
In an interview with Kansas Capitol Bureau, Dr. Dana Hawkinson, an Infectious Disease Specialist at the University of Kansas Medical Center, said they’ll soon phase into “not testing every admission” with PCR tests for SARS-Cov-2.
Meanwhile, they’re keeping an eye out for the possibility of another surge.
“What we have learned is that we can pivot quickly as we need to based on what the activity of the virus is in the community,” Hawkinson said. “That shows our flexibility and our ability to continue to offer access to those patients that need to come here.”
Like Stormont Vail, ICU beds at the University of Kansas Medical Center are also freeing up. Jones said he’s “hopeful” for a full recovery, as this new phase of the pandemic approaches.
With people steering away from pandemic restrictions, doctors are still encouraging people to stay up to date with vaccinations and stay mindful of the spread in their community.
“Obviously, for months people have been going to mass events, and there’s been some level of transmission… that’s likely that will still take place,” Jones said. “Just individual decisions on what people are comfortable with…I think most of us are planning on having a more normal summer this year.”