COVID-19 Hospitalizations in Kansas City Reach a Record Ratio in Pandemic Era

Chief medical officers from the biggest hospitals in Kansas sounded a warning over the explosion of COVID-19 case numbers in the state on Wednesday. Even as they were speaking, it turns out, the proportion of hospital beds filled by those patients hit a record high in the Kansas City area.

The overall head-count for Wednesday dipped a bit from Tuesday’s record total of 959 beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, to 928, a decline of just over 3 percent. Still, that represented 18.72 percent of patient admissions for the day, up from 18.59 percent on Tuesday.

Going back to the first pandemic-related admissions back in March 2020, that represented the first time the patient loads had surpassed the 18 percent threshold. Industry metrics suggest that a hospital is experiencing noticeable strain on its personnel and resources with a 5 percent bump in patient load, a significant strain at 10 percent, and a major strain at 15 percent.

The Kansas City’s region’s 27 hospitals that report daily figures to the Mid-America Regional Council have been over that 15 percent mark every day since Dec. 23. With staff reduced by illness—including those workers idled by positive tests for infection—and the general decline in health-care employment since 2020, hospital executives are pleading with the public to take greater precautions to limit the potential spread of the virus and reduce the need for hospitalizations.

Their now-familiar litany of steps: maintain social distancing, wear masks in public, wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your eyes or face. They also stress the importance of vaccinations, especially for those in the groups most at-risk—the elderly, the chronically ill, and those with immune systems compromised by other conditions.

The squeeze on hospital beds isn’t driven by COVID-19 cases alone, though those patients make up a large share of the increase in daily census figures. The region had nearly 40 percent of beds available as recently as Christmas Day; that fell to 27.19 percent by Wednesday. But of the 404 additional patients being treated on Wednesday, 154—or more than 38 percent—were COVID-related.

That, officials say, represents the additional strain on staff in efforts to treat the additional influx of roughly 250 patients admitted for other illnesses or injuries.


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