Metro area hospital leaders say beds for COVID-19 patients in short supply

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Leaders of 11 metro hospitals said they’re running out of hospital beds to treat patients with COVID-19.

Doctors said the metro area is not at a crisis stage yet, but they are very concerned about the surging infection rate.

The University of Kansas Hospital is also experiencing a staffing shortage, and it’s unable to always accept patients from rural areas for treatment because of a staffing shortage.

Hospital leaders said there are 153 beds available for patients, but only 76 of those beds are staffed appropriately to treat coronavirus patients. It’s a similar situation in the intensive care unit, where there are 32 beds, but only 22 are available for COVID-19 patients with proper nursing and specialists to treat them.

Doctors worry that as the infection rate sharply increases, they may be forced to choose between providing beds for cancer patients and heart attack victims, or admit more COVID-19 patients.

“If widespread community transmission continues to go up, we will be overwhelmed,” Dr. Steven Stites, chief medical officer at the University of Kansas Hospital, said. “That is the inescapable conclusion that we face. I can’t put a time number on it because there’s too many variables.”

Dr. Stites said COVID-19 has become the leading cause of admission at KU Hospital, the most common diagnosis doctors now see. Ten to 15% of patients admitted to the hospital have the virus, as hospitals also must now prepare for the busy flu season. More than 700 new patients a day are testing positive for the virus in the metro area.

Doctors say we can bend the curve again, but people must wear masks while indoors, practice good hygiene and stay away from each other.

“As people move inside we move through holidays like Halloween, but really Thanksgiving and Christmas, and people are getting closer together, that’s when transmission is going to happen,” Dr. Stites said.

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