Patient's transfer between states illustrates pandemic's stress on health systems, neurosurgeon says

Amid a surge in U.S. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, a man with a brain mass was forced to travel from Missouri to Iowa for emergency surgery, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The patient, 48-year-old Shain Zundel, was having worsening headaches Nov. 9 and visited the emergency room at Texas County Memorial Hospital in Houston, Mo. 

Healthcare workers found Mr. Zundel had a brain mass and needed a neurosurgeon, Laura Shoemaker, a spokesperson for Iowa City-based University of Iowa Health Care, confirmed to Becker's. Nurses at Texas County Memorial could find neurosurgeons in the state, but there were no available intensive care unit beds at Missouri hospitals that had a neurosurgeon. 

Nurses at Texas County Memorial also called hospitals in Memphis, Tenn.; Little Rock; Tulsa, Okla.; and Omaha, Neb., Texas County Memorial CEO Wesley Murray told the Post-Dispatch, but still couldn't find an open ICU bed at a high-level trauma center. 

Mr. Zundel, meanwhile, was losing consciousness and had increasing blood pressure.

Finally, Mr. Zundel was flown on a small plane from nearby Fort Leonard Wood to University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. Mr. Zundel was admitted Nov. 10, and his University of Iowa Health Care neurosurgeon, Matthew Howard, MD, said Mr. Zundel is doing remarkably well after a successful emergency surgery, according to Ms. Shoemaker. 

"If there had been a 30-minute delay it may have been too late," Dr. Howard told news station KY3. "The fact that he'd come from a region of the country where we usually don't receive these kinds of transfers spoke to how stressed the system is by the pandemic."

Missouri's COVID-19 dashboard Nov. 17 shows that the state alone saw 28,367 new COVID-19 cases between Nov. 8 and Nov. 14, with an average of more than 4,000 per day. There were 2,454 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Missouri as of Nov. 14, including 570 in the ICU. 


More articles on patient flow:
Arkansas hospital halts certain surgeries as 55 employees sick with COVID-19
Renown Health opens COVID-19 care site in parking structure
Sanford Health rescheduling nonemergency procedures

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