NewsLocal News


KC hospitals, EMS, school districts experience major disruptions due to staffing issues

Screen Shot 2022-01-07 at 4.50.55 PM.png
Posted at 5:28 PM, Jan 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-07 23:09:32-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The latest surge of COVID-19 cases has stretched local hospitals and emergency management thin.

Ryan Jacobsen, medical director of Johnson County EMS System, says ambulances often do not know where to drop off 911 patients with many hospitals busting at the seams. Patients then have to decide where they would like to be treated and are often taken to hospitals that are not their choice.

“The struggle comes when the patient wants to go to a hospital that may be on diversion. They may not be able to care for strokes or heart attacks or trauma because of staffing and bed space,” Jacobsen said.

He says hospitalization numbers often lag positivity rates by two to three weeks, which means many local facilities have not faced peak numbers following the holidays. Health officials and EMS personnel are bracing for a hit as the omicron variant spreads rapidly throughout the Kansas City metro.

Jacobsen says his department is feeling the added burdens of the current surge on top of an already-existing staffing crisis. He has 178 people on staff with 10 out due to COVID-19 and 25 staffing vacancies.

“The lines that you see for COVID case counts in the region are not gradual trends," Jacobsen said. "They are literally vertical lines now, and that impacts EMS as well."

Jacobsen believes Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s recent 15-day COVID-19 disaster declaration could help with staffing but will not solve the issue.

“You can pick back up and work for an employer or volunteer in that role with less stringent licensing issues,” Jacobsen said.

Other hospitals like Research Medical Center are having to ask for the state’s assistance. Fifteen members of the National Disaster Medical System team arrived Friday to offer short-term support.

Dr. Robert Freelove, chief medical officer of Salina Regional Health Center, says vaccinations could have been helpful in preventing the spread of the virus thus far, but hope for mitigating future risks is now up to masking.

On Thursday, the Kansas City, Missouri, City Council voted to resume a mask mandate for K-12 students in city school districts. Grandview C-4 School District Superintendent Dr. Kenny Rodrequez says he believes it will help with staffing issues at his campuses.

“Whether it solves the problem? I don’t know that it will solve the problem necessarily, but I know it will help — it absolutely will help,” Rodrequez said.

The district has about 300 teachers and 600 staff members. It has recently seen 40 to 50 persons call out on any given day, and Rodrequez says student attendance has been about 85%.

“Thankfully, right now, we don’t have necessarily anything contained to one individual school site," he said. "So it’s spread everywhere. So we can kind of absorb that a little bit. We do have to put plans in place."

University Academy and the Sedalia School District had to close classrooms Friday due to overwhelming staffing issues.