Wesley Medical Center leaders call for stronger action on COVID-19

Wesley Medical Center officials went to the Sedgwick County Commission on Wednesday to call for stronger measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

Wesley’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Bill Voloch, said the hospital in Wichita is caring for 150 people with the coronavirus and he said 25 percent of the hospital is COVID positive, which is a very alarming rate.  He said projections from the parent company of HCA Healthcare would put the hospital near 200 positives by the end of December.  Voloch said the hospital is flying in doctors and nurses to deal with the cases, but he is very concerned that 200 may not be the top.  He said short-term projections have Wesley with another 60 patients in the next 30 days.

Wesley’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Lowell Ebersole, said a crisis committee at the hospital has worked out a series of recommendations that he presented to commissioners.  He said bars should be closed, restaurants should be limited to takeout only, with no in-person seating or dining.   He said public gatherings should be limited to ten people or less and there should be no club sports or activities in gyms that would have large numbers of people involved.   Dr. Ebersole said with schools there is a concern about moving to indoor sports during the winter.   He also said family gatherings should be limited to immediate family members.   He said “We’re all going to have to make some sacrifices for the health and well-being of ourselves, our family, our extended family, our neighbors.”

Sedgwick County’s Local Health Officer, Dr. Garold Minns, said the hospitals can handle what they have today, but they could have double the number of patients and the situation is at the point of overwhelming hospitals and staff.   He said “We’ve got to do something to slow it down.”

Commissioner Jim Howell raised a concern that additional steps won’t make a significant change the coronavirus numbers.   He said what the county is seeing now in trends is happening across the country.   Dr. Ebersole said if these steps are taken and a handful of lives are saved, it will be worth it.   He said ten percent of the people going to the hospital with COVID-19 are dying, and he said it is taking a tremendous toll on staff.   He said staff members are not used to seeing death and dying as frequently as it has happened with the coronavirus, staff is being stretched to the limit and some of them will leave medicine after this.

Commissioner David Dennis said if additional action is not taken in the near future, there is going to be a crisis.  He said commissioners need to ask Dr. Minns to work with health professionals in the community to draft a new health order, and the commission may have to have a special meeting to consider that.   He also wants to look at ways to step up testing to get people back to work and back to school as soon as possible.

Commissioner Lacey Cruse said the health order needs to figure out how to identify “bad actors” who are not following the health recommendations.   She said people who are following the rules should not be shut down, but the next order needs to look at identifying the “bad actors” and following through with enforcement.