Overwhelmed Kansas City area hospitals struggling to take in 911 patients

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Across the Kansas City metro, hospitals are busy, and emergency department wait times remain high. Doctors believe we need a community response to this crisis.

Dr. Ryan Jacobsen said about half the hospitals across the metro are on “high volume,” signaling a lack of bed space and staff.

“We did see a fair number of younger COVID patients today,” Jacobsen said. ”We’ve had families come in. We’ve had a number of positive COVID patients come in that we’ve had to admit for new oxygen requirements.”

Jacobsen said emergency departments across the region are saturated day after day, and COVID-19 is just one piece of it.

“And that’s definitely not normal. It’s typically not normal for summer for sure,” Jacobsen said.

The number of people in the hospital has been on the rise since June. He said it could take hours to get treated.

Many hospitals are seeing close to or have already exceeded their previous peak of COVID-19 patients.

The Mid-America Regional Council notes the daily average of hospitalizations is at 161.

“The fact is, if you are walking into a busy ER and you are not the sickest of the sick, you may have an extended wait time,” said Jennifer Sutherlin, MARC’s emergency services health and medical program director.

Sutherlin said MARC is in constant communication with hospitals across the region. In the last two days, MARC’s dashboard shows 1,340 beds available and 86 open in the ICU.

Sutherlin said those numbers can be deceiving.

“Beds are tricky because a bed isn’t a bed, and you have to have qualified staff to take care of that patient,” Sutherlin said.

She said hospitals will take care of every patient they can, you just may have to wait awhile. Jacobsen said it can impact care across the board.

Emergency rooms are full of people with illnesses of all kinds, and it’s constant, making in challenging to take in 911 patients.

“Sometimes the hospitals are just so overwhelmed that it’s very hard to care for those patients that come from 911,” Jacobsen said. “So it’s definitely a community response, a community effort and the whole region’s in the same boat right now. We’re all experiencing the same elevated volume.”

KU Health System said a nurse manager who has worked in the ICU since the pandemic started said the number of body bags they’ve had to order over the last year and a half is traumatizing, especially because they’re in the business to save lives.

Jacobsen said the best way you can help ease the burden is to get vaccinated if you can and mask up while indoors if you’re around anyone not in your immediate family.

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