‘We’re in trouble’: Kansas City doctors concerned as hospitals fill with COVID-19 patients

Tracking Coronavirus

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A lack of beds, overwhelmed staff, and an increase in COVID-19 cases that isn’t slowing. That’s the reality at hospitals across Kansas and Missouri, according to doctors and other health professionals.

Hospitals in Kansas City said they are full and aren’t accepting patients from other hospitals, like they normally do. Some hospitals said they are beginning to cancel or reschedule surgeries to help with the strain caused by an influx of hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

“I think we’re in trouble here,” Dr. Steve Stites, Chief Medical Officer at the University of Kansas Health System, said.

“And we need everyone’s help,” Stites continued.

The number of new COVID-19 cases are increasing in Wyandotte and Johnson counties, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. New cases dropped slightly over the weekend in Missouri, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Hospitals have warned through the entire pandemic that hospitalizations lag behind the numbers. If that continues, it means hospitals haven’t reached the height of hospitalizations connected to the latest COVID-19 spike. Hospitals across Kansas City said they don’t have the resources needed to help everyone they need to treat.

“I’m afraid we already are paying the consequences as the care for heart attacks and strokes and other time sensitive diagnoses are delayed,” Stites said.

The presidents of both the Missouri and Kansas Hospital Association joined doctors at the University of Kansas Health System Monday during an update on Facebook.

They said hospitals are overwhelmed and workers are burned out.

At the University of Kansas Health System, there were 85 patients hospitalized because of COVID-19 on Monday. The hospital said it hasn’t had that many COVID-19 patients since January, before vaccines were widely available.

“I said once before, like last last fall, that we were on fire. And I think we’re on fire again,” Stites said. “I think the problem is that we don’t have enough people vaccinated. And then folks are not following the rules of infection prevention and control. Even if you’re not vaccinated. And even if you are vaccinated, the rules are still the rules.”

The rules Stites mentioned are to wear a mask and get vaccinated. Stites said he personally noticed that the majority of people we not wearing masks where he went in Johnson County over the weekend.

Another concern is the number of younger patients ending up hospitalized with COVID-19.

“If you walk through these ICU units, unlike last winter where we saw mostly elderly folks, now it’s people age 18, 20, 25 or 30. Young people are in these facilities and it has an even larger, harder strain on the hospital staff than what we saw before,” Herb Kuhn, President of the Missouri Hospital Association, said. “Yes, it was hard last winter and staff saw an untold number of deaths and people were very sad. But when you have someone who’s in the prime of their life, someone who is 40 years old who is just clinging to life in the ICU, it’s not only hard on the family, but it’s also hard on the hospital staff.”

University of Kansas Health said the average of its COVID-19 patients is 52. That means half of the patients hospitalized are under that age.

Doctors and other health experts continue to advocate that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and they are effective at keeping people healthy enough to stay out of hospitals.

Vaccines are available at retail pharmacies, hospitals and health departments across the metro. Many are offering them on a walk-in basis.

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