COVID-19: Beyond the Numbers–the wait for a hospital bed

Investigates

The White House Coronavirus Task Force says South Dakota is one of the states topping the “Red Zones” for COVID-19. That’s according to the Center for Public Integrity, which obtained the reports.
A “Red Zone” means the area has more than 100 new cases per 100,000 residents.

The White House task force report is telling red zones, “Masks must be worn indoors in all public settings and group gathering sizes should be limited.”

We asked Governor Kristi Noem’s office to see the White House Coronavirus Task Force’s weekly report provided to the state, but were told it’s not theirs to give us.

KELOLAND Investigates has found a couple of South Dakota doctors posting on social media about what this means for them. The following tweet came from an Avera physician:

The following post was made by a Yankton doctor on Facebook:

We have asked both doctors for an on-camera interview and both say they cannot do that at this time.

Area hospitals tell KELOLAND news that between 10 to 20 percent of their patients have the virus.
That, combined with people who put off surgeries when the pandemic started and those who need care for other issues, means that South Dakota hospitals are starting to feel the impact of crowding.

In our “COVID-19: Beyond the Numbers” coverage, we see how the rise in cases impacts patients and how specifically Sanford Health is handling the influx.

77-year-old Judy Limmer was scheduled to undergo shoulder surgery in June.

“With all the COVID around, I kind of decided to wait,” Limmer said.

She rescheduled her shoulder surgery for mid-September. The Limmers say the procedure was a success and she was well cared for. However, they did run into one hiccup in the hospital.

“Then he told me well, we’re going to have to wait a little bit because she’s going into recovery, but they didn’t have a room ready for her. She was in recovery all that time and then finally they came and told me, we’ve got a room,” Don Limmer said.

Judy and Don Limmer talk about the wait for a hospital bed at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls

It wasn’t until four hours after her surgery that a room became available.

“Yes, we are busy. We 100 percent acknowledge that because we have been. But it’s not like we’re at an area where we need a National Guard set up or anything of that nature,” Sanford VP of Operations, Andrew Munce said.

Sanford Health officials tell us they have doubled up patients in fewer than 10 rooms and are sometimes treating patients who need intensive care in the emergency room while they wait for a bed to open up in the ICU.

“And so there are times we ask patients to receive great care, but maybe to do it in an unusual location—maybe wait in the ER for a little bit, maybe wait in an outlying facility for a little bit, Dr. Mike Wilde said.

Sanford Health points out that anywhere from 80 to 120 patients are sent home from each day and that fall is always a busy time at the hospital, even without a pandemic. Sanford says it currently has the staff and space it needs to keep up with demand as COVID-19 cases rise.

Kennecke: Is there a tipping point?
Dr. Wilde: You hate to use the term it depends, but it really depends. I don’t have a number that’s a tipping point. It really goes into the space, staff, staff illness and things like that. On a daily basis we’re taking inventory and being transparent with our staff on where we are at.

Dr. Wilde says just this morning he met with surgeons to talk about the option of limiting elective surgeries that require an overnight stay in order to free up more beds, however at this point, he says it’s not necessary to take that step.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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