PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Hospitals around the state report daily COVID-19 patient and non COVID-19 patients numbers to the South Dakota Department of Health.
The reports have shown surges in hospitalizations in the state but it varies as to where the most COVID-19 patients are and which regions have the most beds.
The DOH on Oct. 13 added a hospital capacity feature to its COVID-19 information on the website. The feature includes a break down of capacity by four regions in the state and by hospitals within those regions each day.
Hospital officials from the larger regional systems of Avera and Sanford have repeatedly said their systems have the capacity to handle surges in COVID-19 patients.
Several other hospitals contacted by KELOLAND News said they too had been preparing responses to COVID-19 patient surges.
When the public hears about staffed capacity of hospital beds and intensive care units, those numbers include hospitals across the state.
Early in the pandemic, Prairie Lakes Healthcare System in Watertown was asked by DOH to have 172 beds for surge capacity in the state.
“However, since then (DOH has) publicly stated surge capacity planning numbers may have been overestimated, since at that time we were unsure as a nation how fast COVID would spread and surge,” said Jennifer Bender, the director of marketing for Prairie Lakes.
Prairie Lakes has a 30-bed COVID unit. “The last three weeks we have seen a daily average of 10 patients in the COVID unit,” Bender said on Oct. 12. “The average number has leveled off since increasing a few weeks ago, however, we are prepared to accommodate more patients.”
Huron Regional Hospital was asked by the DOH to have 43 beds available, said Kim Rieger, a hospital spokeswoman.
The 43 beds includes 37 in patient beds and six ICU beds, Rieger said.
Earlier this summer, the hospital had a level 3 surge with about five to 10 patients a day, Rieger said.
As of Oct. 12, “our numbers are much less and the severity is less than in our previous two surges,” Rieger said. On Oct. 12, the hospital had four COVID-19 patients and none were in ICU.
COVID-19 patients may have less severe cases than earlier this year but they are staying in the hospital longer, Rieger said.
Patients need two negative COVID-19 tests before they can be released to another health care facility for rehabilitation, Rieger said. The patient can have no symptoms and not be contagious but may still test positive, which means other facilities may not accept them, she said.
During an Oct. 14 news briefing, DOH epidemiologist Dr. Joshua Clayton said the four regions represent the four health care coalitions in the state.
DOH officials have said the hospital capacity in the state is able to handle surges.
The DOH had two glitches that were repaired when it added the data on Oct. 13, Clayton said.