KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Hospitals across the metro are struggling to keep up with the surge of COVID-19 patients, but they aren’t the only area struggling.
The University of Kansas Health System is also facing a full morgue. The health system addressed the tough issue Friday morning in an effort to counter claims of some that hospitals aren’t really overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.
The health system reported a total of 29 people have died from COVID-19 at its hospital in January, which is more than the hospital had the entire month of December.
The morgue can hold the bodies of nine people at a time as families make final arrangements and the health system says it is running out of room.
“It’s hard work and they are making sure that those patients get to the appropriate funeral homes,” said Dr. Tim Williamson, vice president of quality and safety at KU Hospital. “We are right at the edge of our capacity any given day about being able to to manage the number of deceased patients down there.”
The health system said the next step is to bring in additional refrigerator trucks, like other cities have done.
To prove what it is facing, KU Health System showed video from inside its morgue during a COVID-19 update Friday morning. The video shows body bags on gurneys. Many of the bags are marked “COVID positive,” meaning the patients died from COVID-19. The hospital said it’s an extra precaution for hospital workers.
When the morgue gets too full, the health system said some of the remains have been temporarily stored outside of refrigeration rooms. The hospital said that only happens when it knows a funeral home is on the way to get the body.
KU Health says it may have to bring in refrigerated storage trucks if things get much worse.
“We are right on the cusp of needing more capacity,” Williamson said. “The only reason that we’re able to get by without additional, for example, freezer trucks, which we really don’t want to do because that’s very impersonal, is because they do such a great job down there of getting folks to funeral homes, and getting them to the next step.”
The health system also shared a video showing just how many people and how much equipment is needed to care for COVID-19 patients in the hospital’s intensive care unit.
For some, “seeing is believing” and doctors hope showing what’s happening inside the health system may convince a few skeptics that hospitals really are facing a crisis in trying to provide all patients the proper care they deserve.