Kansas Hospitals Running Out of Morgue Space, Searching for More Ventilators

As COVID-19 cases surge in Kansas, hospitals have reported shortages in ventilator supply and morgue space.

Dr. Lisa Hays, chief medical officer for AdventHealth in Shawnee Mission, told the Kansas Reflector that her staff is "on the brink."

"Every day, when I round in the intensive care unit and check on the staff, people are in tears," Hays said. "They're struggling to get the community to understand how dire the situation is in the hospital and the workload that they're taking on."

Positive cases in the state have been skyrocketing. According to data from the Mayo Clinic, the average positive test rate in the state was 9.4 percent two months ago. As of January 12, that figure stood at nearly 30 percent.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported there have been 7,162 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic started. Of those who have died, 78 percent were over age 65.

Hays told the Reflector that the number of COVID-19 patients in her hospital has doubled to 82 in the past few weeks, with another 25 people waiting for a bed to become available as of Wednesday.

She said another issue is morgue capacity, telling the newspaper she "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."

Elsewhere in Johnson County, where Hays' hospital is located, health experts are experiencing the same problem. Dr. Sanmi Areola, director of the county's health department, told the Associated Press the entire county is quickly running out of morgue space.

"It does not take being an expert in public health to know that things are pretty bad," Areola said.

Hays also told the Reflector her hospital almost ran out of ventilators this week before new ones could arrive.

AP reported hospitals in the Kansas City area are in communication with the medical examiner and other Johnson County health officials to help find more ventilators and handle the morgue capacity issues.

In addition to the morgue and ventilator concerns, some hospitals are dealing with a lack of medical personnel as more of them become infected with the virus.

Kansas City's Research Medical Center called on a Disaster Medical Assistance Team in the hopes they would help free more patient beds, but so many hospital employees were out sick that the team only served to replace them, WDAF-TV reported.

Some have called the recent surge in cases of the Omicron variant a "pandemic of the unvaccinated." The Reflector that reported at KU Health only 18 of 123 current COVID-19 patients were vaccinated.

According to USA Facts, about 57 percent of Kansas' population is fully vaccinated.

COVID-19, test
Kansas health officials are worried about morgue space and ventilator availability amid a COVID-19 surge. Above, a woman gets a coronavirus test. Stock Image/Getty Images