Looming flu season worries COVID-strained Kansas hospitals

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas’ hospitals are worried about the upcoming flu season because they’re already strained by the surge in COVID-19 cases.

Wichita’s four hospitals have been operating for weeks at full capacity, with limited beds and staff. At various points, they have had to ask ambulances to take patients to other facilities, The Wichita Eagle <a href=”https://www.kansas.com/news/coronavirus/article254058533.html” target=”&mdash;blank”>reported.</a>

“Looking ahead, the prospect of COVID-19 potentially being combined with a more typical influenza and viral respiratory illness season is alarming,” said Sam Antonios, the chief clinical officer at Ascension Via Christi.

Flu season <a href=”https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season.htm” target=”&mdash;blank”>lasts from the fall through the winter</a> and it generally peaks in the U.S. from December through February, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At Wesley Healthcare, a shortage of nurses and a growing number of mostly unvaccinated patients is straining the system, said chief medical officer Lowell Ebersole.

“While we do everything we can to provide quality care to our community, we are concerned about the imminent change of seasons, which historically brings with it a significant increase in respiratory and flu symptoms,” Ebersole said.

Meanwhile, The University of Kansas Health System said 13 people died at its facilities in less than a week.

Its chief medical officer, Steve Stites, noted that the health system had far more COVID-19 patients on Labor Day this year than it did last year, The Kansas City Star <a href=”https://www.kansascity.com/news/coronavirus/article254058803.html” target=”&mdash;blank”>reported.</a>

“I think what we just have to recognize is that we’re probably at greater risk this year than last year,” he said during a Tuesday briefing, adding that the “saving grace” is the vaccines that didn’t start coming to market until last December.

Lawrence Memorial Hospital treated as many COVID-19 patients on Tuesday as it did in January, when it last had so many. Three people died of the disease there over the weekend.

“Today’s news is a good reminder that this pandemic is far from over and the costs are real and unchanging,” the hospital said in a news release, reminding community members to take every precaution to protect themselves and others from the disease.