About three-quarters of Kansas and Missouri counties lack intensive care units, forcing critically ill rural patients to seek care in major cities.
Kansas City has a mask mandate, which isn’t the case in many smaller nearby communities that don’t require masks or where mask orders are routinely ignored. In the last few months, a lot of rural counties in both Kansas and Missouri have seen some of the highest rates of COVID-19 in the country.
A recent patient count at Saint Luke’s Health System in Kansas City showed a quarter of COVID-19 patients had come from outside of the metro.
“Not only are we seeing an uptick in those patients in our hospital from the rural community, they are sicker when we get them because [providers in smaller communities] are able to handle the less sick patients, and we get the sickest of the sick.” says Dr. Marc Larsen, who leads COVID-19 treatment at Saint Luke’s.
Larsen says that two-thirds of patients coming from rural areas need intensive care and stay in the hospital for an average of two weeks.