Sioux Falls hospitals getting calls to take out-of-state patients as COVID-19 activity increases


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — So far, the hospitalization rates in the Sioux Falls area are holding steady to what they were last week ahead of the Labor Day weekend, but area doctors are already bracing for a potential surge in the coming days.

“We’re certainly busier with covid than we were even a week ago,” Sanford Health Clinic Vice President Joshua Crabtree said.  

Both Sanford and Avera are seeing an increase in COVID-19 activity right now.

“What we see in the clinic is increasing number of phone calls, patients reaching out with symptoms that would be consistent with covid, our testing rates are up,” Avera Family Medicine Physician  Dr. Chad Thury said.

Avera is once again considering opening a COVID-19 testing center; Sanford recently re-opened its drive thru testing clinic at the sports complex where traffic continues to pick up days after the holiday weekend.

“What we seem to know now about the delta variant is the rapidity in which is spreads and transmits is greater,” Crabtree said. 

During last year’s fall COVID-19 surge, two weeks was a typical wait time between a mass exposure event to cases showing up in the clinic. With delta, symptoms are showing up sooner.

“More like seven to ten days verses two weeks,” Crabtree said. 

“Whether it’s more kids going back to school or Labor Day weekend, you’re going to start to see an increase in patients, probably in about a week,” Thury said 

As the number of positive cases increases, doctors say more hospitalizations will soon follow.
“We’re still doing ok from a bed standpoint,” Thury said.

Both hospitals say whether a patient is sick with COVID-19 or another medical emergency, they won’t be turned away, but it may take longer to receive care.

“The speed with which that happens and the process that happens may look different from day to day,” Crabtree said. 

And it’s not just a matter of running out of space, but also hands.

“We can physically have beds but we need to have staffing  available to provide care to the patients that would go into those beds,” Thury said.

It’s not only a problem in Sioux Falls, but at healthcare facilities across the country. Crabtree says the national staffing crisis is impacting the healthcare industry’s ability to take patients or manage patients. Now, these Sioux Falls hospitals are receiving calls on a daily basis, asking if they can help take in more out-of-state patients. 

“I think desperate times call for desperate measures and people are calling all over the country to see if there are open beds. Have we taken some of those? Have we been able to? Yes, but sometimes we are not,” Crabtree said. 

To ease the strain on all health care workers, doctors say they need everyone’s help.

“The big ask for the community is to do what they can to mitigate COVID-19 and the potential surge we’re expecting to see so we’re not in a more dire situation,” Crabtree said. 

Both Avera and Sanford say the best way to ease the strain on the health care system is to get vaccinated. Both health systems say they have seen a slight increase in vaccinations this week, but hope to see a more dramatic increase soon.

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