Emergency status: Hospital situation continues to decline


By Jessie Wagoner


The increase in number of COVID-19 positive cases among patients, coupled with staff shortages, are pushing Kansas hospitals, including McPherson Hospital, to the breaking point. Over the last week, conditions at area hospitals have continued to decline.

McPherson Hospital is currently operating at emergency status. This means that, in the most extreme circumstances, the hospital staff may have to decide who needs care most, which is called triage. While the hospital would like to treat everyone, they may have to resort to triage. 

“Our hospital and community are suffering from a massive wave of COVID infections,” local physicians said in a letter to the community released on Tuesday. “We have patients on ventilators in record numbers. Our hospital is full of both COVID and non-COVID patients who desperately need the best care available. Surrounding hospitals are not taking transfers because they are full. We are running low on medications and supplies to treat these very ill patients who are your friends, neighbors and family. In coming weeks, we expect conditions to continue to be severe. We pledge to you to work as hard as we can to give the best care to every single patient.”

Hospital staff continues to ask community members to get vaccinated and boosted, as the COVID-19 vaccine is the most reliable way to avoid hospitalization if you contract COVID. They are also asking that you avoid risky activities, practice good health habits, wear a mask, social distance and stay home if you are sick. 

In addition to the problems already facing area hospitals, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) announced Tuesday that hospitals are facing a critical blood shortage. KDHE is requesting anyone eligible to donate blood to schedule an appointment to do so. To schedule an appointment to donate blood, visit www.redcrossblood.org.

“We encourage Kansans who can donate blood to schedule an appointment today,” Janet Stanek, acting secretary of KDHE, said. “Blood donation helps ensure our hospitals can continue their operations and has the ability to save lives.”

The McPherson County Health Department released data on Jan. 13 which showed there are 590 active cases of COVID-19 in the county. Of those cases, nine people are hospitalized. There have been 11 COVID-19 deaths in McPherson County since Jan. 1.

MCHD continues to offer COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters. Contact the health department directly to schedule an appointment.

Though the state is seeing a large surge in cases, KDHE has announced that, beginning Feb. 1, they will no longer provide contact tracing services. Local health departments are also winding down their contact tracing efforts. The decision to end contact outreach and monitoring was made due to the surge in the amount of positive COVID-19 cases, and the public’s willingness to participate has diminished since the beginning of the pandemic.

“As we enter the third year of this pandemic, public health has to begin to adjust the level of response to help alleviate the strain on the public health system,” Stanek said. “The pandemic is far from over, but this step is a move toward managing COVID-19 as an endemic disease. The responsibility of protecting yourself and others belongs to all of us.”

Testing for COVID-19 continues to be offered through the McPherson Fire Department. The fire department has seen an exceptional increase in the number of people being tested. They are requesting that only those with symptoms be tested at their location at this time. To schedule an appointment for a COVID-19 test, call the fire department directly at 620-245-2505.

This week, a new website, https://www.covidtests.gov/, launched. It provides a way for those in the United States to get free COVID tests. Every home in the U.S. is eligible to order four free at-home COVID-19 tests. The tests are completely free. The orders will usually ship in seven to 12 days. They are encouraging people to order their tests now so they will have them when they need them.