As hospitalizations surge in Kansas, LMH Health accepts patients from other counties, states

photo by: Chris Conde

LMH Health is pictured in a file photo from October 2018.

As COVID-19 cases ramp up in Kansas, hospital beds for virus patients are in high demand. Lawrence’s hospital is currently able to accept patients from other counties and states, a hospital spokesperson confirmed on Monday.

LMH Health is caring for inpatients outside of Douglas County on a case by case basis based on the patient’s care and treatment needs, said Amy Northrop, spokesperson for the hospital. As of Friday, LMH Health’s bed capacity was at 46%, according to the health department’s community scorecard.

Northrop said that a time may come when LMH Health must stop accepting patients from outside the county, but that the determination would not solely be based on bed capacity.

“We evaluate the needs of the patient to ensure we have bed space for the patient’s appropriate care level that they need,” Northrop wrote in an email to the Journal-World. “For example, if another hospital were to ask to transfer a critical care patient, and we have only 1 bed in our Intensive Care Unit (ICU), then we would not be able to accept that patient transfer.”

Northrop said that LMH Health has received calls from various states inquiring about bed availability, but that the hospital cannot share which states due to patient privacy concerns. Northrop was also unable to share the percentage of the hospital’s current inpatients who are from outside of Douglas County.

LMH Health always keeps one bed open within the facility to address an urgent or emergent need for a current patient, Northrop said. No transfers would be placed in that bed. Northrop also specified that if a patient came to the Emergency Department and needed inpatient hospitalization, the patient’s county of residence would not matter and that “they would get the open bed space to address their immediate health concern.”

Topeka’s largest hospital, Stormont Vail, announced Monday that they reached capacity for COVID-19 patients, a “dire situation” that “came much quicker than anticipated,” hospital president and CEO Robert Kenagy said in an update. Stormont Vail had 81 COVID-19 inpatients on Monday.

On Friday, LMH Health announced that it was in the process of setting up one of its overflow spaces. Northrop said the hospital’s current COVID-19 wing can care for 16 patients. They are expanding it to care for an additional 13 patients. This expansion is part of Phase 1 of the hospital’s surge response planning efforts. Other parts of the Phase 1 plan include expanding the hospital’s ICU area to include room for 14 more patients. (The standard ICU can serve 10.) Additionally, the hospital may turn an overflow area into a space for five patients.

In Phase 1, LMH Health would have the capacity to care for 226 patients total. Phase 2 of the plan, which would expand care into outpatient areas and classrooms, would allow for 276 patients overall.

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