Kansas City area hospitals filling up, ambulances transferring patients as COVID-19 spike rises

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With COVID-19 cases on the rise, hospitals are feeling the strain. Beds are hard to come by, and ambulances are on the move.

Many hospitals in the metro say they are near the levels they saw at the height of 2020. Both doctors and health officials are concerned because cases are increasing, and the majority of the patients they are seeing are unvaccinated.

Dr. Tim Williamson is a pneumologist and the VP of Quality Safety for the University of Kansas Health System. He says how bad things will get is unclear.

“We’ve not peaked yet likely. And we don’t know how long this surge will last,” Williamson said.

He said the hospital system isn’t overwhelmed, but they could be soon. As of Tuesday, they have sixty people in their hospital with COVID-19, and 18 of them are in the ICU.

A representative for HCA Medical said they are close to hitting a record number for patients, and the average age is 54.

St. Luke’s Health System says all their hospitals combined have nearly 140 COVID-19 patients.

“Ninety-nine plus percent of the patients who have died in our hospital are not vaccinated. And the vast majority of patients we have hospitalized are not vaccinated,” Williamson said.

Nathan Hopper manages emergency management for the Kansas City Fire Department.

“It has been an 18 month almost unending human disaster, essentially. A catastrophe that isn’t going away,” Hopper said.

He said across the city they are inundated with calls, and an increasing number of them are from people experiencing complications from COVID-19.

“The big limitation and this is true everywhere is ICU and critical care beds, and those are very precious. So, when they’re occupied by people that are suffering from COVID they’re not available for people that are having acute medical problems and so those are the patients that are having to be transferred to places outside of this area,” Hopper said.

Both men say getting vaccinated and wearing masks are what it’s going to take to make the unnecessary deaths stop.

“It’s going to require a certain amount of sacrifice. It may require people begrudgingly doing something they didn’t necessarily love doing, whether that’s getting vaccinated or wearing a mask, but follow the public health guidelines. It’s not there to make life difficult. It’s there to make life better for all of us,” Hopper said.

Williamson said the health system opened up a room for patients to relieve the hospital filling up with patients. 34 beds were filled in one day, and they are seeing a rising number of younger patients.

While they haven’t had to send anyone outside the metro, he says multiple times a day they are getting calls from across the Midwest to help people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s with or heart lung bypass machines they aren’t able to assist with.

He said most all of the patients they see are not vaccinated, and many of the younger patients were in good health before they caught COVID-19.

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