Specialty hospitals stand ready to help in case of COVID surge


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — From Sioux Falls to Rapid City, doctors and nurses are putting in long hours taking care of patients with COVID-19.

Even as their case loads grow, the South Dakota department of health website says one in three staffed hospitals beds sits empty.

In COVID-19: Beyond the Numbers we’re taking a look at where those empty beds are, and why the state tracks them in its daily totals.

Encompass Health and Rehab offers in-patient rehab for dozens of conditions. The website says people who stay at the Sioux Falls facility can get rehab for everything from brain injuries to burns and spinal cord injuries.

LifeScape Children’s Services offers rehab for patients who are 21 or younger.

Sioux Falls Specialty Hospital has a recovery facility, where patients can stay overnight.

They’re just a few of the surgical centers and rehab facilities that the state health department monitors. They all have hospital beds, and they’re all included in the state’s daily equation.

KELOLAND News reached out to the state health department to find out why the facilities are included in the daily count.

A spokesperson told us they’re all required to report information for a federal tracking program.

He also sent us a link to a document detailing the program.

It says when considering total and inpatient beds, only consider specialty beds – such as rehab beds – if they are part of the surge work flow and could be used for inpatient needs.

KELOLAND News reached out to the three facilities located in Sioux Falls to find out how their beds would be used as cases surge…

Lifescape says they’re not able to handle Covid patients, but they are on the list in order to free up beds at the other acute hospitals so those hospitals can handle more covid-19 patients if needed.

“LifeScape is part of the statewide Emergency Preparedness Surge planning process. LifeScape has an 18 bed Specialty Hospital. We do not have physicians on-site.  We are not an Acute Hospital like Avera or Sanford. LifeScape does not have an Intensive Care Unit or an Emergency Room.  We report out daily on the number of beds available. If needed, LifeScape may be able to accommodate a patient at a lower level of care in order to free up an acute care bed at one of the Acute Hospital systems. LifeScape can not take a COVID positive patient,” Lifescape Chief Operating Officer Kimberly Marso said.

We checked with Sanford, Monument and Avera Health. Avera says placing COVID-19 patients in any of those other medical facilities is not part of their plan at this time.

Monument suggested we ask the rehab and surgical centers what role they will play.

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KELOLAND News is covering the Coronavirus outbreak. We have created a guide to everything you need to know to prepare. We also have the latest stories from across the globe feeding into this page.