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McPherson man dies waiting for ICU bed


MCPHERSON, Kan. (KWCH) – Close friends and family say a 44-year-old McPherson man died unexpectedly waiting for a hospital ICU bed to open up. The patient, Robert Van Pelt, was hospitalized for an issue unrelated to COVID-19, but because COVID patients are taking up so many hospital beds, his friends and family says he wasn’t able to get the immediate care he needed. Dying while waiting on a hospital bed is a reality as hospital levels are officially at dangerous levels, they warn.

“There are a lot of people who don’t believe the hospitals are full. That’s really hard to listen to when one of my friends’ husband was lying in a hospital dying because he couldn’t get the treatment he needed because the beds were full,” said family friend Liz Hamer, speaking on behalf of Van Pelt’s family.

A GoFundMe page, established to help Van Pelt’s family with funeral expenses offered the following explanation of what happened with him.

(”Van Pelt) was going to a routine medical procedure when something unknown went terribly wrong and he flatlined under light sedation. He was able to be revived after many attempts and what went from a routine 20-minute appointment left him without oxygen for several minutes and he had to be life-flighted to the nearest emergency hospital with a cardiac team,” the family explained.

Van Pelt died waiting three days for a bed in the ICU as unvaccinated patients overwhelmed ICU rooms across the state, his family said. Kansas hospitals reached out to 20 states, trying to find just one available ICU bed. But there wasn’t a single ICU bed open and emergency rooms were full.

“The family will never know if having an open hospital bed or open neuro ICU beds, specifically in any of the 20 states, could have found urgent care,” Hamer said. “They’ll never know if that could have kept him here. And that’s something that’s extra hard for them to carry right now.”

By the time St. Francis hospital in Wichita had an ICU bed open for Van Pelt, it was too late, his family says.

Currently in Sedgwick County, there are 56 COVID patients in the ICU. That’s 56 beds that typically would be open.

“People need to understand this is a real present danger for families,” Hamer said of Van Pelt’s situation. “Car accidents happen, heart attacks happen, trauma happens, and there may not be care for you in the hospital if we can’t get this under control..”

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