Aberdeen hospitals managing COVID-19 patient demand

ABERDEEN, S.D. (By Elisa Sand esand@aberdeennews.com) – Health officials continue to recommend masks, social distancing and good hygiene as the number of COVID-19 patients increases at both Avera St. Luke’s Hospital and Sanford Aberdeen Medical Center.

Ashley Erickson, CEO for Sanford Aberdeen, and Kelli Fischer, chief nursing officer at Avera St. Luke’s, appeared at the Aberdeen City Council meeting Monday via Zoom to provide an update and answer questions.

Both said COVID-19 patient numbers are increasing, but the hospitals are managing the demand.

Erickson said Sanford Aberdeen most recently has averaged six COVID-19 patients a week and had three patients in the hospital as of Monday. But there hasn’t been a high demand for ventilators.

“Less than 15% need a ventilator,” she said.

Erickson said 80% of the COVID-19 deaths have involved patients with “end-stage renal failure,” which is a decline in kidney function.

“It’s that vulnerable patient that we are seeing,” she said.

The average age of virus patients has also increased across the Sanford Health system from 56 in May to 66.

At Avera, Fischer said, St. Luke’s had 14 COVID patients as of Monday.

In September there were 33 in all, she said, with an average stay of six days and an average age of 73. The hospital has had eight deaths, she said, and three patients have been placed on a ventilator. Fischer said several options are available to patients before a ventilator is needed. A ventilator is considered the last option.

Councilman Clint Rux asked about personal protective equipment, as initial reports in spring showed a concern about supply.

Both Erickson and Fischer said the hospitals have a sufficient supply. If there’s a need at another hospital within the Sanford or Avera system, masks and protective gear can be sent to that facility without negatively affecting other hospitals, they said.

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