KELOLAND man with COVID-19 claims Sioux Falls hospital ran out of bed space, hospital responds


A KELOLAND man was shocked to discover he had COVID-19, and was just as surprised when, as he claims, a Sioux Falls hospital didn’t have room for him. As cases rise, we’ve heard some concerns about hospitals transferring patients due to lack of room.

State health officials say there is no need to transfer people out of state because we still have the room here in South Dakota hospitals and they have no information about hospitals doing so. However, John Bjorkman says that’s not what happened to him.

Bjorkman considers himself an active person. Right now, though, walking across his hospital room is a big accomplishment.

“It’s not like me to lay around at all,” Bjorkman said.

Bjorkman found out he had COVID a few weeks ago.

“It almost burns the side of your lung. The air part that’s coming down. It just burns, it hurts,” Bjorkman said.

He went to the Avera Hospital in DeSmet, but wasn’t getting better. He says staff called a specialist in Sioux Falls about transferring him here, and says he heard the doctor say this:

“I heard him saying, ‘well, we have no beds here in Sioux Falls. No beds,'” Bjorkman said.

Bjorkman is now in the ICU at a hospital in Marshall, Minnesota, where he got Remdesivir and plasma treatments.

“It was pretty scary. I’ll tell you that. If I wouldn’t have got that, Brady, I don’t know if I’d be here right now,” Bjorkman said.

Vice president of Avera Medical Group Clinical Quality, Dr. David Basel, says, as a whole, the system is not overcapacity. He says bed availability depends on the day or even the hour.

“Every day it’s a complex balance between patients coming in and patients coming out. Sometimes there’s an hour or two before the bed opens up that we put someone there, so it’s not uncommon,” Basel said.

Basel also points out Avera’s network and bed capacity covers a lot of ground in multiple states.

“That’s not an uncommon occurrence that we have a patient would go from one side of the border to another side of the border. It’s more about what’s available at the hospital and the level of care provided there,” Basel said.

We also asked Sanford Health about claims local hospitals are turning patients away due to running out of beds.

“No, it’s not true. We’re prioritizing patients based on need. We always have the feeling people would have the best care as close to home as possible. So, we may prioritize, so if there are several locations sending patients to Sioux Falls, we’ll maybe take the patients with the greatest need first,” Dr. Mike Wilde, VP Medical Officer for Sanford Health, said.

Bjorkman is hopeful he’ll recover soon, and says he’s getting great care in Minnesota. However, he’s still troubled by not being able to get into a hospital bed in South Dakota.

“It disappointed me a little. I’ll be honest. You know, you hear the secretary of health talk, ‘Oh, we have 1,043 beds. 260 of them are ICU capable.‘ Well, where are they? If they’re in the state of South Dakota, where are they and what good are they if you can’t treat the person once he gets in?” Bjorkman said.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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