By Adam Strunk
As of Friday, Harvey County remained the top 10 list in Kansas for most new COVID-19 cases (114), along with Sedgwick (1,144) and Reno County (230).
According to a Nov. 6 Kansas Hospital Association report, the sustained and growing surge in cases in south central Kansas has helped fill 93 percent of all intensive care unit beds in the region, leaving only 19 ICU beds open to serve COVID-19 patients or those with other critical health needs among the three quarters of one million people who live in the region.
Area residents should take the hospital capacity shortage seriously, Shelley Conrady, director of communications for Newton Medical Center, said.
“There are things they can be doing to help mitigate the situation,” she said. “We need to keep everyone safe.”
Conrady said that should a resident get in a car accident, have a medical emergency or need hospitalization for COVID-19 or the flu, NMC wants to make sure it has capacity to meet community need.
Conrady did not provide a number for the exact amount of COVID-19 patients the hospital was dealing with. The county listed three residents as hospitalized on Friday.
However, Conrady said the hospital has been filling up. She said, as a regional hospital, it’s also been taking COVID-19 cases from surrounding counties along with those from Harvey County.
“We help them with overflow, so that pushes up our numbers,” she said.
Two-hundred-fifty-three patients are currently hospitalized in south central Kansas, with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. Eighty-eight are in ICU units, and 18 are on ventilators.
She said the patients also come on top of normal traffic the hospital sees this time of the year.
“You have people who come in whether it’s a car accident, heart condition, the flu,” she said.
The hospital also does have contingency plans to make additional capacity if need arises.
In south central Kansas, 34 percent of staffed inpatient beds remain available, but staffing is also a reported problem in the region. Twelve out of 30 hospitals in the region expect critical staff shortages in the next week.
Conrady said that Newton Medical Center has been taking steps to alleviate future capacity issues by evaluating scheduled surgeries on a case-by-case basis.
The hospital also has called on residents to take seriously regional capacity issues and try to avoid contracting and spreading COVID-19.
That means some familiar advice. Wear a mask, social distance, wash hands, avoid gatherings of people, stay at home if you feel unwell, and if you have symptoms, contact your family doctor.
“Today, we are able to meet the needs of our growing patient load,” the hospital stated in a Nov. 4 release. “Tomorrow, that may not be the case. Your choices today make a difference. You have the power to keep our community safe.”