Avera hospitals seeing nearly full capacity with more patients expected

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – The latest data from the South Dakota Department of Health shows hospitalizations for COVID-19 in the state are at 214. But when you add other illnesses and reasons to seek medical help to that list, it puts hospitals in a tough spot for availability.

Dr. Mike Elliot, the Chief Medical Officer for Avera McKennan says the hospital has been at nearly 100 percent capacity for several months in a row.

“To be honest, every morning, we have patients that are waiting to come to Avera McKennan,” Elliot said.

He describes the current situation as ‘heartbreaking.’

“I think it’s safe to say there is an assumption in the United States if I need acute medical care, they’ll be able to find a bed for me,” Elliot said. “They’ll be able to find nurses to take care of me, specialized physicians to take care of me. The uptick in hospitalizations around the entire country has really challenged that assumption. It’s no longer guaranteed that there’s going to be a bed or a nurse or a physician to be able to take care of you.”

Compared to last year, Dr. Elliot says the surge in hospitalizations is different because of the types of patients they’re seeing in addition to COVID-19 cases.

“Heart attacks, strokes, traumas, you name it. Our pediatric unit has been amazingly busy. And that wasn’t the case in the surge last year,” Elliot said.

And they are bracing for even more hospitalizations to come.

“I think we’re going to peak in the next two to four weeks,” Elliot said. “For the Avera system, we’re likely going to peak somewhere between a hundred and a hundred and fifty COVID patients in our hospitals across our region. Actually, this morning, we’re pretty close to a hundred already across the system.”

But there are ways to hinder that surge.

“Please, please, please, take good care of yourself, get the vaccine, do the other mitigation strategies,” Elliot said.

Dr. Elliot says the large majority of COVID-19 patients they are seeing hospitalized are unvaccinated. Right now, he says the number of COVID-19 patients under the age of 60 is higher than at any point last year

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