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Avera and Sanford Respond to Capacity Concerns


Local health providers say individual hospital capacity is not the best metric for gauging responses to COVID-19. After reports of deferred patients spread on social media, leaders from both Avera and Sanford say their surge plans are adequate and they have enough staff. But there are ways the public can help. 

There’s a simple reason Sanford and Avera are not publicly releasing their daily hospital capacity: to reduce confusion.

Dr. David Basel is the Vice President of Clinical Quality for Avera Medical Group.

“The answer at 2 p.m. is gonna be different than the 3 p.m. and the 4 p.m. number," he explains. "And so the meaningfulness of that number is not a lot of times what the public thinks it is. So putting them all together in sort of an aggregate at the same time of day makes a lot of sense too.”

The state Department of Health does just that, but public concern arose with reports of South Dakota COVID-19 patients being transferred to out-of-state facilities. Dr. Basel says that’s not uncommon if a patient needs specific care.

“I suppose it looks a little strange from the outside that that crossed the state line, but it wouldn’t even enter into our mind. It’s more kind of the level of complexity of care provided in any given facility than any county border or state border," he says. 

The same goes for reports of adult patients being deferred to the Sanford Children’s Hospital in Sioux Falls. Dr. Mike Wilde is Chief Medical Officer at Sanford Health.

“At times, whether it’s influenza or just general needs, we will have patients over in the children’s area, and sometimes there’s children in the adult area," he says. "It’s all part of the hospital.”

Wilde says adult COVID-19 patients are not being sent to the Children’s Hospital.

“That is actually really the vast minority of patients are seeking care from a pandemic standpoint. It’s really those other care needs that we’re seeing at this time.”

Avera’s Dr. David Basel says the public can use statewide hospital data to monitor trends that inform their decisions. He says people should get a flu shot this year and be mindful of even mild cold-like symptoms to avoid potential spreading of illness.

But don’t put off seeking treatment. Dr. Basel says patients may end up staying in the hospital longer if they don’t seek care right away.