Sen. Moran: Return to normal for hospitals and health care could lead reopening of economy

The economics of hospitals and health care was discussed at a University of Kansas Health System news conference on Friday morning with U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, and hospital officials.

Sen. Moran remarked that perhaps the reopening of the economy could be led by the return of hospitals and health care providers to something more close to normal.

He said he hoped that revenues from patient care return to the health care delivery system. Doctors at the news conference said that hospitals and health care offices are among the safest places to be with more protective measures in place.

“Margins in a hospital are pretty slim,” Doug Gaston, senior vice president and chief financial officer at KU Health System, said at the news conference.

Hospitals were particularly hard hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, as they had to scale back their elective surgeries and non-emergency visits, while also spending more money to obtain tests, gear and equipment to fight COVID-19. Some recent publications reported a third of the fall in gross domestic product was due to health care industry, according to KU doctors.

Gaston said ratings agencies stated the average margin for hospitals is 1.7 percent, meaning that for every $1,000 in charges, it adds $17 to the bottom line.

“Given that framework, we can’t stand a big disruption, otherwise it wrecks the finances of a hospital,” Gaston said. “Unfortunately, we’ve had a big disruption.”

Early national predictions were a 40 percent decline in gross charges for the first four months, some are saying 20 percent in the next 12 months, he said. While they don’t know what the exact figures will be, it will be significant and is a big challenge, Gaston said.

Gaston said that while they are developing a number of plans at the health system in order to be flexible, they do not want to furlough workers. There is not a plan to reduce staff, he said. That could result in the loss of highly skilled workers, and they might have to then hire more workers later. It would damage their business model, he said.

“I think it’s shortsighted to dismantle your workplace,” he said.

Sen. Moran, at the news conference, said the CARES Act set aside $100 billion to help health care providers in the nation, with $30 billion first for Medicare reimbursements, and $20 billion in the second payment for Medicaid reimbursements, in loans.

In the last week, $18 million in grants from Health and Human Services was allocated to high intensity COVID-19 hospitals in Kansas, and $82 million in grants to rural hospitals in Kansas, he said.

Also, city, county and district hospitals now are able to get a loan through the PPP program, he said. Originally these hospitals were not able to get this funding, he said. Sixty Kansas hospitals qualified by having less than 500 employees, but half of those were originally ineligible because they were city, county or district hospitals, and that has now been changed after he and others intervened, Sen. Moran said.

The unemployment rate hit 14.7 percent today, with 20.5 million people unemployed, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Labor, Sen. Moran said during the news conference.

Sen. Moran also said 100,000 medical masks have been donated to Kansas by Taiwan. The masks have the same quality and requirements as the U.S. medical masks, he said. He said a member of his staff was instrumental in helping to get this donation.

Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention and control at the KU Health System, said that COVID-19 patient numbers at the KU Health System on Friday were down, with 24 reported as compared to 26 on Thursday. Nine patients were in the intensive care unit. Four to five patients are being admitted per day, usually, and about the same number are being discharged. In all, there have been 120 patients discharged at KU Health System since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer at the KU Health System, said there is a lot of collateral damage in COVID-19 from people not taking care of their health, from other conditions.

“Don’t be part of COVID collateral damage,” he said. Don’t be afraid to get help, he added.

Dr. Hawkinson encouraged patients to continue to discuss their medical conditions with their providers and to continue to treat chronic illnesses, so they don’t have emergencies.

Dr. Stites said the way to beat the pandemic is to wash your hands, don’t touch your face, cough into your elbow, don’t go out when sick, wear a mask and don’t ignore symptoms that would lead you to get health care.

To see the KU doctors’ news conference, visit

The UG’s COVID-19 webpage is at

The Wyandotte County reopening plan, a 41-page document, was posted Thursday, April 30, at

The Kansas COVID-19 website is at

The Kansas COVID-19 resource page is at

Information from the CDC is at

HHS awards $5.7 million to expand COVID-19 testing in Kansas

The Department of Health and Human Services has announced a grant of $5.79 million to 19 health centers to expand COVID-19 testing in Kansas.

One of the grants, for $250,279, was in Wyandotte County, and went to Turner House Clinic of Kansas City, Kansas, according to HHS documents. Turner House in 2018 merged with Silver City Health Center and KU Pediatrics Clinic at the Children’s Campus Kansas City, and is now called Vibrant Health.

The grant was made through the Health Resources and Services Administration.

The funding is part of the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, according to a news release. The legislation provides funding for small businesses and persons financially affected by COVID-19, additional funding for small businesses and health care providers, and increased testing to track the spread and effect of the coronavirus.

Kansas COVID-19 cases up by 410 as Wyandotte County cases rise by 33

Kansas reported 6.144 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases on Thursday, an increase of 410. (KDHE map)
A state graph showed new cases in blue and total cases in yellow in Kansas. (KDHE graph)
Wyandotte County reported 939 positive COVID-19 cases, an increase of 33, with the same number of deaths and hospitalizations as the previous day. (From UG COVID-19 website)

The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Wyandotte County rose to 939 at 11:05 a.m. Thursday, while there were no increases reported in deaths or hospitalizations Thursday morning, according to the Unified Government COVID-19 webpage.

It was an increase of 33 cases in Wyandotte County since the 1:40 p.m. Wednesday report.

Kansas reported an increase of 410 confirmed and probable cases on Thursday morning, to total 6,144, according to figures from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The state has started counting confirmed with probable causes on Thursday, a change from the previous confirmed total.

There were 147 deaths in Kansas, an increase of three, according to KDHE. Hospitalizations in Kansas increased by 16, to total 587, statewide.

On Wednesday, Dr. Lee Norman, Kansas secretary of health, stated in a news conference that it is important not to focus on one day’s numbers but to watch the overall trend lines as time goes on. Sometimes they see batch numbers from local communities come in over a few days together, not coming in the first day. There have been increases in testing recently, he said.

He said the state is monitoring 75 outbreaks.

Thirty clusters are in private companies statewide, with 339 cases and four deaths; 22 are in long-term care facilities, with 498 cases and 81 deaths; eight are in church and church-related gatherings, with 110 cases and eight deaths; six are in meatpacking plants with 985 cases and two deaths; three are in group living arrangements, with 40 cases and zero deaths; three are in correctional facilities with 479 caes and two deaths; and three are in health care facilities, with 21 cases and zero deaths.

At Lansing Correctional Facility, testing of all inmates was completed on May 5 and staff will finish testing by early next week, Dr. Norman said. Most of the staff have already been tested, he said.

He said COVID-19 cases spread quickly in prisons. It’s possible there were a certain number of cases at Lansing before it was recognized as such, he said. There was probably a number of asymptomatic people there before the numbers rose, he believes.

Gov. Kelly said there is now a system to evaluate inmates who might be released early, and they will continue to verify who is eligible and is at low risk. She also said some inmates who have been eligible have chosen not to be released, as they would be placed in house arrest, not actually released.

KDHE has loosened the guidelines for testing, with 60,000 testing kits a month available, and now anyone with symptoms can be tested, he said. Symptoms will still be required for a test, he said, such as fever, cough, chills, muscle pains and aches, malaise, headache, sore throat, lower respiratory symptoms, difficulty breathing, the loss of smell or taste, and diarrhea. Two or more of the symptoms are required through KDHE tests, while private tests require one or more symptoms, he said.

The state is now working with labs that are developing a saliva test, and a serum test is being worked on, he said. The goal is to have an antibody test that is specific to COVID-19, not the viruses that cause the common cold, he added.

The University of Kansas Health System reported 26 COVID-19 patients today, with nine in the intensive care unit. There were some discharges recently, according to Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention and control at KU Health System. He said he hopes the trend of discharges continues.

Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer at the KU Health System, said it feels like the numbers of cases are escalating around them, while the number of cases seems to be declining in the hospital.

Dr. Hawkinson said the experience here has been different from New York, where there were a large number of hospitalizations and critical patients. He is hoping that this area won’t have the large numbers of hospitalizations and the surge that the East Coast experienced, and that this is the new normal.

Wyandotte County is currently under the “stay-at-home” order, and may consider the first stage of reopening, the “red zone,” on May 11.

KU doctors offer advice about getting enough sleep, reducing stress

At a news conference on Thursday morning, doctors at the University of Kansas Health System offered advice about getting enough sleep and reducing stress.

Dr. Greg Nawalanic, psychiatrist with the KU Health System, said that people have been dealing with anxiety and depression through the entire lockdown, and some are having mixed feelings about the manner in which reopening is taking place. Sleep is sometimes affected. Some polarization and conflict has surfaced on social media, with some people becoming angry and anxious.

Dr. Suzanne Stevens, neurologist and director of the sleep medicine clinic at KU Health System, said that people’s experience with the pandemic could be reflected in their dreams. Dreams of health care workers may be reflecting trauma, she said. Others’ dreams may reflect financial and other difficulties, with zombies or invisible aliens attacking them in the dreams.

She said some records of Hiroshima victims showed an “invisible enemy” in the dreams, as people were worried about radiation then, and today it could be a common theme as well.

Another category of COVID-19 dreams is the lockdown dream, she said, where a person dreams he has done something wrong, can’t leave home and wants to escape.

Dr. Nawalanic said anxiety could get worse when people do not feel they can exert control. Some people feel what they have in place now is working for them, but now other people get to decide what their response will be in reopening.

People still have a wide range of appropriate practices that they can have control over, he said, including physically distancing, hygiene and putting on masks when they leave.

Dr. Nawalanic recommended maintaining a sleep routine, going to bed at the same time, keeping screens off an hour before bed and keeping the bedroom dark and cool. If waking up at night, don’t go get a drink or turn on the television, he said.

Dr. Stevens said anxiety begets anxiety. Being exposed to constant negativity during the day could influence dreams, so people can limit exposure to constant negativity.

She said being kind, having good interactions and caring interactions will boost the positive side, and getting outside and exercising could be part of that.

While at home, some people are working from home more, going to bed later and sleeping in later, she said. If they get up later, they could have more intense dreams toward the end of their sleep. Structure is important, with the same bedtime and same waking time.

When people awaken, they could go outside and get some sunlight or turn on the lights, signaling to their brain that it’s time to get up. At night, people should limit negative information, and it might be helpful to shower before bedtime, she added. That might help people relax, and a comfortable sleeping environment might be about 65 degrees.

She said if people wake during the night, they might try deep breathing, counting to three as they breathe in and out. It also might help to visualize a pleasant place, including a positive event in their past. Others write down their dreams or record them, which might help to get it off their minds.

Dr. Nawalanic said it might help to block all thoughts about not sleeping, and keep visible alarm clocks out of the bedroom. If you wake up at night, don’t scroll through the smart phone looking at messages.

Don’t try to work or watch television while in bed, he said. A person could have dreams about what they didn’t do at work if they were working in bed previously.

Also, instead of taking a catnap in the afternoon, get out and exercise, and you might be more sleepy at night, he said.

Dr. Stites said, for those who might have anxiety about going back to work, if they maintain social distance, wear a mask, wash their hands and practice good hygiene, they have a good chance of staying healthy.

Dr. Hawkinson said it is important to continue good hand hygiene, not touch your face, and stay six feet away from others, as people go back to work.

Dr. Stevens said good sleep helps the immune system, helps prevent infections, and if people do get infected, it helps lessen infections.

Employees at KU Health System were the recipients of a barbecue meal today from Operation Barbecue Relief. It was the 4 millionth meal served by the organization, which provides meals during disasters. (Photo from KU Health System)

State case counts in other counties

On Thursday, according to the KDHE, Leavenworth County reported a total of 887 confirmed and probable cases, showing a large increase since Monday. Testing has been going on at Lansing Correctional Facility.

Johnson County reported 560 confirmed and probable cases, according to the KDHE.

Eighty-two counties reported confirmed and probable positive cases on Thursday, according to KDHE, and some of them included: Ford County (Dodge City area), 933; Seward County (Liberal area), 647; Finney County (Garden City area), 589; Sedgwick County (Wichita area), 430; Lyon County (Emporia area), 311; and Shawnee County (Topeka area), 140.

Douglas County (Lawrence area) reported 56 cases, and Riley County (Manhattan area) reported 56 cases, according to the KDHE.

To see the KU doctors’ news conference, visit

The UG’s COVID-19 webpage is at

The Wyandotte County reopening plan, a 41-page document, was posted Thursday, April 30, at

The Kansas COVID-19 website is at

The Kansas COVID-19 resource page is at

Information from the CDC is at