'Dire situation' with COVID-19: Kan. hospital overloaded, diverting ambulances
"This is our situation. This is our reality. We are not crying 'wolf,'" said Robert Kenagy, president and CEO of Stormont Vail Health
The Kansas City Star
TOPEKA, Kan. — As COVID-19 continues to tear through Kansas, the leader of one Topeka hospital is describing the situation as "dire" with its emergency department so overwhelmed that ambulances are being diverted elsewhere.
In a publicly shared email Monday, Robert Kenagy, president and CEO of Stormont Vail Health, said his hospital is treating dozens of COVID-19 patients, the majority of whom are unvaccinated and at higher risk of severe health issues. The hospital has filled each of its inpatient rooms, including the intermediate, intensive and medical care departments.
"We are facing a difficult and dire situation in the COVID-19 pandemic," Kenagy said, adding: "This is our situation. This is our reality. We are not crying 'wolf.' We are trying to provide clarity about the status of our community."
As of Monday, there were 228 patients being treated in the hospital and 64 of them had tested positive for COVID-19. The hospital is currently unable to safely care for additional patients because of limited staffing, Kenagy said.
Over the weekend, the hospital's emergency department began diverting ambulances because its patient load was too high. More than a dozen people were waiting in the emergency room for a hospital bed on Monday morning; some were waiting several hours for one.
Additionally, Kenagy said there is a "logjam" of accepting transfer patients from other hospitals. There were 46 requests sent to the hospital for transfer patients and 15 were taken, ranging from infant age to the late 70s. The requests came from within Kansas as well as in Oklahoma, Missouri and Nebraska.
Patients seen in the hospital are younger and often experience more severe illness, Kenagy said. One of the hospital's COVID-19 patients died over the weekend, a man in his 30s.
At the same time, vaccination rates have lagged far below the threshold public health experts would like. Kenagy said there are still too many people refusing to take the vaccine as the cases in Kansas keep climbing.
"This is the pathway to get this wildfire under control," Kenagy said.
Roughly 44.5% of the state's population has received both doses of the vaccine, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. About 51.4% have received at least one dose.
Meanwhile, cases across the state have risen substantially, driven in large part by COVID-19's delta variant.
In the Kansas City metropolitan area, which considers Wyandotte and Johnson counties, there were 702 new cases reported Friday.
Over the preceding week, there were 4,486 cases compared with 4,932 during the previous one-week period.
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