Desperate Hospital Borrows Ventilators From State Stockpile: 'Every Day is a New Record'

A Kansas City Hospital said they had to borrow ventilators from another state's stockpile after struggling to handle an increase of COVID-19 cases because of the highly infectious Omicron variant.

Liberty Hospital's chief medical officer Dr. Raghu Adiga said they had to use ventilators from Missouri's stockpile and are still searching for more high-flow oxygen machines because the hospital struggling amid an increase of COVID-19 cases.

HCA Midwest Health chief medical officer Dr. Kim Megow said the state has been moving around ventilators across Kansas City hospitals to try and accommodate the 255 COVID-19 patients.

Megow said the COVID-19 patients are occupying about a fourth of the beds and an additional 25 virus patients were admitted into rural facilities on Wednesday.

Adiga said Liberty Hospital is treating 60 COVID-19 patients, beating its previous record set in December 2020 by 11 patients. "Every day is a new record," he said.

Office employees had to step in and help make the beds so patients could be seen because of the massive staffing shortage.

The strain has also prevented larger city hospitals from accepting as many transfer patients from rural areas as they otherwise might, including patients who need treatment for heart attacks, strokes, serious car accidents or other non-COVID-19 reasons. Nonessential surgeries were postponed until further notice and the hospital ran out of monoclonal antibodies after administering the last two doses on Wednesday, Adiga said.

"This is all hands on deck time, unfortunately," he said. "And this is the situation everywhere in the city right now. This is not a time to slip and fall."

Hospitals Short on Ventilators
A Kansas hospital said they had to use ventilators from Missouri's stockpile to keep up with treating COVID-19 patients. Above, US Army Critical Care Nurse, Captain Catherine Sison, tends to a non-covid patient on a ventilator at Beaumont Hospital in Dearborn, Michigan, on December 17, 2021. Jeff Kowalsky/Getty Images

Health officials for hospitals in the Kansas City and Wichita areas issued a desperate plea Wednesday for people to wear masks and avoid crowds. And the situation was so bad in the St. Louis area that health officials there urged people just to stay home, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

"Any social gathering of any kind at this time is risky, it will put people at risk," said St. Louis' health director Dr. Matifadza Hlatshwayo Davis. She urged people to only leave home to go to work, school, doctor's appointments and grocery shopping.

Dr. Lisa Hays, the chief medical officer at AdventHealth Shawnee Mission, described the ventilator situation at the hospital in the Kansas City suburb of Merriam, Kansas, as "tenuous."

She said she received an emergency call on Saturday night from the chief nursing officer because the hospital was down to just one available ventilator. She said the hospital managed to hunt down more, but that the situation is complicated by the fact that not all of the machines can handle the high-oxygen flow that COVID-19 patients require.

Meanwhile, more than 100 employees tested positive for COVID-19 and were on sick leave, and patient deaths are mounting, Hays said.

"I had to learn how many bodies our morgue could hold yesterday and determine whether that was going to be adequate for what our needs are," she said.

Megow said she had hoped that the arrival of a federal disaster medical assistance team at Research Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri, would allow the system to handle more patients. But she said the federal contingent instead has had to act as substitutes because more than 400 employees were out sick.

"The COVID blizzard continues," she lamented.

Ascension Via Christi Health's Wichita hospitals were treating more than 170 COVID-19 patients, said Dr. Sam Antonios, the system's chief clinical officer. He said about 30 more were hospitalized in the system elsewhere in the state.

"We have unfortunately beat the 2020 record that we had," he said. "And it's obviously putting strain on the system."

He said Ascension has been able to move ventilators around to prevent a shortage, adding that the bigger concern was the low supply of monoclonal antibodies.

His comments came after Wichita's City Council received a dire report from medical officials Tuesday. The council took no action on the report, but it directed the city manager to look for ways that the city can contribute to efforts to improve testing availability and promote the vaccine, The Wichita Eagle reported.

Dr. Catherine Satterwhite, a U.S. Department of Health & Human Services official for a region that includes Kansas and Missouri, said case counts were on "a very, very steep trajectory."

"We anticipate that it will be a sharp decline," she said. "What we don't know is when, and we also know that there are still a lot of pockets of unvaccinated or under-vaccinated people. A lot of people haven't started their vaccine series, and a lot of people haven't gotten their booster yet. So those kind of things impact how long omicron will hang around."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

covid kansas hospital kearny lakin
Health officials for hospitals in the Kansas City and Wichita areas issued a desperate plea January 12, 2022, for people to wear masks and avoid crowds. Dr. Drew Miller, front, and other medical staff suit up in protective gear as they prepare to check potential COVID-19 patients May 20, 2020, in a makeshift isolation area at Kearny County Hospital in Lakin, Kansas. Charlie Riedel/Associated Press