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Bismarck Hospitals Have Plenty of COVID Capacity

Bismarck Hospitals Have Plenty of COVID Capacity

As the number of active coronavirus cases tends up, some are wondering if North Dakota can handle a potential increase in hospitalizations. KX News sat down with leaders of both health systems, locally, to separate fact from fiction. We’ve all see the national reports of full or overcrowded hospitals across the entire country, we’ve even gotten stories like that here from viewers like you here at KX. So what is the truth regarding the state of hospitalizations in the Bismarck-Mandan area? Well, we went to the two largest providers here to get that answer.

CHI St. Alexius CEO Kurt Schley tells us the hospital currently has 13 people hospitalized for COVID-19. Four of those are in the ICU, with one being on a ventilator. That’s well under CHI’s limit of 16 ICU beds, and they have around 130 at the hospital for one reason or another. Schley says the hospital is also doing a good job at keeping workers healthy.

“We have about two dozen employees right now that are in quarantine from exposure. The vast majority of these are from community spread,” said Schley.

He adds while employees are not regularly tested, they are screened frequently and can stay home if they have any symptoms.

“Widespread COVID testing has not taken place yet, because of the supply of the tests, and the capacity of the labs in our area and nationally to be able to process them in a timely fashion,” said Schley.

At Sanford Health the numbers are quite similar. 17 people are currently hospitalized for COVID. All four people in the ICU are on ventilators. But Sanford has room for 15 ICU COVID patients, and over 50 ventilators ready to go. If they push the panic button, they can have around 180 rooms ready to treat COVID patients in a short amount of time. KX News has been contacted by several viewers claiming to have been turned away by Sanford or transferred to another location in Fargo or Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

We took those concerns to Sanford’s Vice President, Todd Schaffer.

“We’d never close our doors to keeping coming to seek care, whether it’s COVID related or general medical-related, we’ve been operating at a very high level for two years now, so this isn’t anything new to us. We find a way to make sure that each and every patient that comes to us get the care they need,” said Schaffer. He adds that patients are only transferred if they can be better treated at another hospital.

We did reach out to people who made the claims but have not received any follow-up calls.

Schaffer stressed that the COVID pandemic is an extremely fluid situation and things can change drastically on a daily basis.

“We can go from a very, very full unit, looking at opening the next unit and comparing that to accept more COVID patients, to two-thirds empty all in a 24 to 48-hour time frame,” said Schaffer.

But for now, both leaders say their hospitals are far from capacity - and equipped to handle the ongoing pandemic. Both men we spoke with tell KX News they are doing their best to make sure frontline health care workers don’t get burned out, which could lead to mistakes being made.

Robert Suhr, Reporting 
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