Kansas hospitals are turning away more than 100 transfer patients a month as smaller, local hospitals continue filling up at an alarming rate.

In May, at the beginning of the pandemic, the University of Kansas Health System denied 40 transfers and in October it was up to 140, said Jill Chadwick, a KU spokeswoman.

"November was expected to trend higher," she said, adding that those numbers are not yet available.

Nadya Faul / KMUW/File photo

The city of Wichita said it will work with Sedgwick County to enforce the county’s new public health order.

The order passed last week tightens restrictions on certain businesses and mass gatherings, and it requires masks in most public spaces. It also lays out possible penalties for violations, the first time the county has adopted enforcement measures.

Hospitals in Colorado and Nebraska are calling Kansas in desperate search of beds for coronavirus patients. But Kansas hospitals are asking them for the same.

November has brought on the strongest surge yet of the coronavirus across the region — and that’s before Thanksgiving gathers families together.

“The entire Midwest is on fire,” said Steven Stites, chief medical officer at the University of Kansas Health System.

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On Monday, Sedgwick County’s COVID-19 dashboard reached a worrying milestone: For the first time since the pandemic began, all 208 of the county’s ICU beds were full, if only momentarily.

Kansans remain among the most vulnerable in the country to surprise medical bills — charges from outside an insurance network that the consumer only discovers after treatment.

A new research brief from the Kansas Health Institute points to studies suggesting the charges are common in Kansas. It’s part of a shrinking minority of states yet to pass laws reining in the practice.

Saint Luke’s Health System says it will close its two community hospitals in Overland Park at the end of the year. Both hospitals opened just a couple of years ago.

The health system said declining patient volumes were behind the decision.

“Overall, our community hospital model has performed remarkably well and has allowed us to effectively expand access in a critical segment of our market,” Bobby Olm-Shipman, CEO of Saint Luke’s South and East, said in a statement.

When the coronavirus hit Kansas, there’s no question the state — like the rest of the country — was unprepared. That showed in the mad scramble to buy more surgical and N95 masks, gowns and nasal swabs.

Public officials say Kansas has made progress on those and other fronts. Yet gaps in data make it hard to pinpoint whether Kansas has what it needs — at a time when cases are increasing at an alarming rate.

Here’s a quick look at where Kansas stands now on the most important measures.

How common is coronavirus in Kansas?


Most health experts continue to advise people to stay home to avoid catching Covid-19, or to maintain social distancing when out in public.

Lynn Hutchinson doesn’t have those options.

Rick Kimpel / flickr Creative Commons

TOPEKA — Officials in Wichita and Sedgwick County worry that a continued resurgence of novel coronavirus cases will force local hospitals to scramble for new intensive care unit beds to treat the seriously sick.

County Manager Tom Stolz told Sedgwick County Commissioners on Tuesday that if current hospitalization trends and use of ICU beds for coronavirus patients continues into next week, it's likely the situation will be deemed “critical.”

The county health department reported that eight of the 35 ICU beds available for coronavirus patients were open as of Monday.

KMUW File photo

Wichita hospitals and dental offices are making plans to end their coronavirus pause and begin a return to full operations.

Wesley Healthcare CEO William Voloch says elective surgeries and imaging will resume Monday on a limited basis.

"We’re not going to go full-scale," he says. "We are not going to be doing everything that we were doing, but this is a way for us to start."

He says the hospital group has enough capacity and ventilator supply to serve a greater number of patients. Wesley also plans to reevaluate its restricted visitation policy.