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He Didn't Have COVID, Needed an ICU Bed, Died

ProPublica shares the story of Daniel Wilkinson
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 15, 2021 1:23 PM CDT
The ICU Bed Shortage May Be Worse This Time Around
In this Dec. 29, 2020, file photo, Memorial Hospital registered nurse Kari Carrell cares for a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit in Bakersfield, Calif.   (Alex Horvath/The Bakersfield Californian via AP, File)

(Newser) – It's far from the first story about how non-COVID patients with medical emergencies have found themselves stymied by a lack of available beds due to those with COVID, but ProPublica illustrates its article on the topic with two cases.

  • Case I: Seth Osborn, a 12-year-old who went to a Florida ER in late July with stomach pain. A nurse blamed his six-hour wait to be seen on COVID. He was diagnosed with appendicitis and transferred to a nearby hospital for surgery, which happened, but not before his appendix burst. The complication wasn't fatal (it could have been), but it did mean the boy was stuck in the hospital for about four additional days receiving antibiotics.

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  • Case II. Daniel Wilkinson, who went to a Texas ER on Aug. 21 with abdominal pain. He was seen quickly—in about 30 minutes—and was given a gallstone pancreatitis diagnosis. He needed surgery at the hands of a specialist and an ICU bed. The ER doctor couldn't find one, even after calling hospitals in Kansas and Colorado. A bed finally freed up in Houston and he was transported by helicopter about six hours after his diagnosis. But by that time his condition had deteriorated to the point where he had to be put in a medically induced coma. Roughly 18 hours later he was dead.
  • ProPublica's point. In prior pandemic waves, "localized COVID-19 hot spots led to bed shortages, but there were usually hospitals in the region not as affected that could accept a transfer. Now, as the highly contagious delta variant envelops swaths of low-vaccination states all at once, it becomes harder to find nearby hospitals that are not slammed."
  • The numbers. ProPublica drives home that point with these numbers: Texas is home to 29 million people, and had just 319 adult and 104 pediatric staffed ICU beds available as of Monday.
(Read the full article.)

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