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Rural Alaska

Bethel hospital patient needing treatment in Anchorage had to wait an extra day for an ICU bed

The new Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Regional Hospital, still under construction on June 27, 2019. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

BETHEL -- The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. recently had to keep a patient at its Bethel facility for an extra day because there were no available beds in Anchorage.

The corporation’s hospital in Bethel does not have an intensive care unit, which medical staff deemed necessary for the patient’s treatment, KYUK-AM reported Wednesday.

“This was an ICU-level patient, and all the ICU beds in Anchorage were full,” Dr. Ellen Hodges, the corporation’s chief of staff, said Wednesday. “... So it makes some of these (COVID-19) mitigation strategies more important.”

Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta communities are experiencing a national trend, noted in statistics released by the federal Centers for Disease Control. They indicate that young people have become more prone to the virus, although most do not suffer the extreme effects that have struck many older patients, Hodges said.

Hodges said 30% of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region’s cases are among people under the age of 18, with 70% under 40.

The Lower Kuskokwim School District has several communities that have moved entirely to remote education because of the pandemic.

The level of infection needs to improve for schools to reopen and the health corporation recommends two weeks without community spread of the virus before schools reopen, Hodges said.

“For Bethel, which is one of the towns with community spread, our last community spread case was about 10 days ago,” Hodges said. “So we think it might be possible, if we don’t get any more cases through the rest of this week, we could consider having the conversation about going back down to medium risk.”

Correction: This article has been edited to remove a reference to the Bethel patient having COVID-19. The patient’s illness was not specified.

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