Sep 11, 2020 9:03 PM

Doctors: Capacity at HaysMed not a concern

Posted Sep 11, 2020 9:03 PM
Dr. Heather Harris
Dr. Heather Harris

Hays Post

According to doctors from HaysMed and the University of Kansas Health System, capacity is not — and has not been — a concern during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Heather Harris, chief medical officer at HaysMed, said the number of patients being treated in the special COVID-19 unit have remained relatively steady for the past six to eight weeks.

"This unit is not full. (And) we have a lot of resources for what's called 'surge capacity' to expand that quite easily," she told Hays Post on Friday. "But we really haven't had to give that much thought.

"We're busy, but we're not full."

There are 11 rooms in the current COVOD-19 unit – formerly the Bone, Joint and Spine floor. Harris said the average daily patient count has been between six and eight patients, noting patients residing outside of Ellis County are among those patients.

Active hospitalizations reported regularly by the Ellis County Health Department only include Ellis County residents.

Dr. Steven Stites
Dr. Steven Stites

Dr. Steven Stites, chief medical officer of the University of Kansas Health System, said even if HaysMed would need additional capacity, patients could be transferred to system hospitals in Kansas City or Topeka for treatment.

But Stites added the way to prevent a surge is to wear masks and social distance, noting Hays, like other college communities, saw a spike in cases when classes resumed.

"At least from the data we're seeing in Lawrence and Kansas City, even though the Kansas kids are testing positive, they're not going into the hospitals," he said.

He warned that could change "six to eight weeks down the road" should preventative measures such as masks be ignored.

Stites pointed to the health care industry itself as proof of the efficacy of masks, noting that in the Kansas City hospital there has not been a single health care worker who has contracted COVID-19 while in the hospital.

Locally, Harris said, testing for coronavirus is efficient and fast, with results available to patients in 24 to 36 hours "at the most." She said medical professionals are suggesting only those showing symptoms be tested.

Harris said the hospital has become a busier place as more people visit for elective procedures and treatment. She said hospital activity at HaysMed is back to pre-COVID levels.

And the recent decline in local cases is encouraging for Harris, noting the use of masks and social distancing in Ellis County.

She also praised students at Fort Hays State University for following quarantine protocols after testing positive for the virus, noting the spike that began in mid-August likely would not have slowed if those precautions were not taken.

"It's a frustrating and long 14 days," she said. "But the community is doing an excellent job of trying to keep people healthy."