Is Kansas City the next Springfield? Hospitals address concern over COVID-19 surge

Posted at 11:31 AM, Jul 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-28 12:31:59-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus ravages the state of Missouri, some are concerned hospitals won't be ready for the influx of patients.

Springfield has recently become known as the epicenter of the virus, with cases rapidly increasing and the vaccination rate remaining low.

The CoxHealth hospital system in Springfield is starting to see the strain of the rising cases.

Just this past weekend, 27 people died of COVID-19 at its hospitals, and it had to expand morgue capacity.

A ventilator shortage was also an issue at the beginning of the month at Mercy Springfield Hospital.

Mercy is now requiring employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and that trend is spreading to the Kansas City area.

The City of Kansas City, Missouri, is discussing a vaccination requirement for all employees, and Jackson County will require vaccination or weekly testing for all its employees.

Some are worried the hospital trends could also spill into the region as virus cases start to climb in Kansas City.

During their daily morning call, University of Kansas Health System doctors were asked about any preparations for a hospital influx.

"We have more than 100 ICU beds... and most of our eyes see that they're occupied because our overall census is so high," Dr. Steven Stites, chief medical officer, said.

He said the issue is that once people are stabilized, they can be moved out of the ICU and onto other floors, but there isn't a lot of room on other floors available for those COVID-19 patients.

Until there is more room in the ICU, they can't put more people in the ICU. Right now, that health system is operating two COVID-19 ICUs.

"So where we are today, we can manage. The question is the following," Stites said.

He said current numbers could be where we crest and then numbers decline, or it could just be a plateau and numbers could climb.

"That's why I'm pushing it to bend the curve, and gosh darn it, if you really get 85% of people vaccinated and you get everybody wearing a mask and socially distancing, we will break the curve and the numbers will go back down," Stites said.

Saint Luke's Health System said they are fortunate to have four metro hospitals and five community hospitals so they can be flexible about managing capacity. They are not currently having capacity issues.

The system spokesperson said the hope is that more people will choose to be vaccinated so Kansas City doesn't look like Springfield.