Bismarck hospitals clarify New York Times article

Coronavirus(Associated Press)
Published: Oct. 7, 2020 at 11:00 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - A New York Times article says that Sanford Medical Center in Bismarck turned away a COVID-19 patient because of a lack of beds and advised the patient to either go to Fargo or to return home and have a relative care for him.

Both Sanford Health in Bismarck and CHI St. Alexius in Bismarck say they are equipped to handle the influx of COVID-19 patients. Sanford Health Bismarck Directors say the hospital has reached 100% capacity over the last month, but they say considering that number alone doesn’t tell the whole story.

Hospital staff say only 10% of the in-patients are being treated for COVID-19. Ninety percent are people with other ailments or conditions.

Sanford Health has four hospitals across the state, and Sanford Clinic Vice President Todd Schaffer says they are all able to take in critical care and COVID-19 patients, clarifying parts of the New York Times article.

“We don’t feel that statewide there is a shortage of beds. When you look at Sanford Bismarck, we’re doing all we can from a staffing perspective to maintain an adequate number of beds to take care of both COVID and non-COVID patients,” Schaffer said.

Schaffer says over the past month, Sanford Bismarck has sent about 12 COVID-19 patients to other facilities. The New York Times article states one patient was told his “only options were to send him to a hospital hours away in Fargo, or to release him to be monitored by his daughter...” However, Schaffer says the hospital has a home monitoring program for select patients who fit certain criteria and offer the option to patients to treat their COVID at home.

“We have remote monitoring where we can monitor their oxygenation, symptoms as well as their temperature. We have a bank of nurses and providers that monitor what their symptoms are,” Schaffer said.

CHI St. Alexius responded in a statement saying, “We have capacity to care for all patients and are constantly monitoring our resources, including PPE and staffing needs.”

Schaffer says according to federal regulations, hospitals cannot transfer or turn away patients who meet hospitalization criteria unless there’s another facility able to accept them. Hospitals must also have a physician to physician conversation to make sure the patient is accepted.

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