Delta variant fills Kansas hospital beds with COVID patients

TOPEKA — A COVID-19 surge in Kansas fueled by the faster-spreading Delta variant is filling up hospital beds in some areas.

Four times as many patients with confirmed COVID-19 infections were hospitalized this week as were hospitalized in early June, according to a survey from the Kansas Hospital Association. Hospitals said they’re dealing with a regular load of non-COVID patients as Delta variant cases surge — unlike last fall and winter, when new COVID-19 case numbers hit record highs.

“We’re seeing more cases of a variety of other things that have patients in the ER and ICU,” Cindy Samuelson, a senior Kansas Hospital Association vice president, said Thursday. “Then you add the COVID on top of that.”

Confirmed Delta variant cases in Kansas are doubling every two weeks, and new COVID-19 cases overall have been rising for five weeks.

The Kansas Hospital Association said that 116 Kansas hospitals surveyed this week reported having 399 hospitalized COVID-19 patients. For early June, 125 hospitals reported having 99 — and the association stopped posting numbers on its website for five weeks.

University of Kansas Health System officials disclosed last week that they were refusing to admit some patients from outside their system.

For about a month, the Salina Regional Health Center has at times been at full capacity. Chief Medical Officer Robert Freelove said the hospital has struggled to find beds for patients who have needed a higher level of care, recently sending one more than three hours away to Garden City in southwest Kansas.

“Normally when we’d send somebody to another hospital, it’s going up to a higher level of care, like a bigger hospital with more services,” Freelove said. “But now, at times, we’re just looking for a bed wherever we can find one.”

In Wichita, the Ascension Via Christi system had some good news with the slowing this week of a recent increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations.

“We accept transfers as we are able, but when the volumes are running high there often are times when we cannot,” said Kris Hill, vice president of nursing for the system’s St. Francis hospital in Wichita.


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