Open Mics With Doctor Stites 12-1-21

Media Resources

Jill Chadwick

News Director

Office: (913) 588-5013

Cell: (913) 223-3974


           The number of COVID patients at The University of Kansas Health System is holding steady today. 27 with the active virus are being treated, the same as yesterday. Seven of those patients are in the ICU, the same as yesterday. Three are on ventilators, down from four yesterday. 13 other patients are still hospitalized because of COVID but are out of the acute infection phase, down from 14 yesterday. That’s a total of 40 patients, down from 41 yesterday. HaysMed has16 active and 8 recovering COVID patients, a total of 24, down from 27 yesterday. Doctors noted of the 27 active patients in Kansas City, only seven are vaccinated, and all seven have other significant medical problems. None of the seven in the ICU is vaccinated.  

            On today’s Morning Medical Update, having access to high quality healthcare can be difficult in rural areas. We examined how a program of The University of Kansas Health System makes it possible to get those services to folks living in smaller communities. Joining the panel were Dr. Bob Moser, dean of the KU School of Medicine in Salina, Jodi Schmidt, executive director of the Care Collaborative, and Dr. Craig Concannon, an internal medicine physician in Beloit, Kansas.  

             Before addressing today’s topic, the panel discussed the status of COVID in Kansas. There are more than 700 patients hospitalized across the state, the highest number since July. Saline County has seen hospitalizations double in just a week. They’re seeing a big community spread of the disease in western Kansas and moving east. While about 70 percent of adults in the area near Beloit and Salina have had at least one vaccination, that’s the exception. Many rural hospitals are starting to fill up again and having trouble finding somewhere to transfer COVID patients. The feeling is this winter will be tough, especially with flu cases already being reported. They stress it will be hard to eliminate COVID because it’s mutated so many times and we never got the world vaccinated. Unless we make a commitment to vaccinate everyone, they feel we’ll just have to learn to live with COVID as a controlled endemic.

            Jodi Schmidt explained how the Care Collaborative started seven years ago as the Heart and Stroke Collaborative, and has grown to encompass a wide range of health concerns for small town Kansans. Many patients have chronic conditions that need medicine management between doctor visits, which can be hard especially for the elderly. The big focus now for the Care Collaborative is Health Coaching, which helps connect patients to all kinds of support services, like transportation, meal delivery and home health visits to help them manage their condition daily. The Care Collaborative has provided more than 62,000 of these coaching visits. It’s reduced the total cost of care by 22 percent compared to patients who don’t get this support. A new program starting in January, with help from Children’s Mercy Hospital, will focus on pediatric and adult diabetes.

            Dr. Moser helped start the Care Collaborative and feels it’s made a tremendous impact on the health of rural Kansans. They have trained 78 organizations across 70 counties and in that time have lowered the numbers of heart attacks and strokes and significantly decreased hospital readmission rates. They’ve also helped reduce cases of septic shock in long term care facilities. As dean of the KU Medical School in Salina, one of his challenges is training enough doctors and nurses to replace a growing number of rural providers who are either retiring or resigning because of the stress. He also says many rural hospitals, which are the lifeline for small communities, are facing financial problems. Kansas ranks among the top three states with the most rural hospitals considered financially at risk.

            Dr. Concanon is a primary care doctor in Beloit, one of only six doctors and a surgeon in a town of 4,000. He says it would be devastating to his town, or any small community, if the hospital had to close. But he says they are fortunate to be as stable as any critical access hospital, thanks to great community support. He’s seen firsthand how the Care Collaborative has helped his patients, especially with transportation and medicine management. He agrees that staffing is still a problem for small hospitals, and they’ve had to cut back on the number of patients they can take as a result. He noted their high school football team was successful thanks to a high vaccination rate.

            Dana Hawkinson, MD, medical director of infection prevention and control at The University of Kansas Health System, believes the upcoming monoclonal antibody pills will be a game changer, and if taken early enough will keep a lot of people out of the hospital. But he says the key is not to get COVID in the first place. He stresses relying natural immunity is not going to get us out of the pandemic like the vaccines will.

            Steve Stites, MD, chief medical officer at The University of Kansas Health System, says in order for us to keep from endlessly chasing COVID variants, we have to realize that our normal behavior must be modified for quite a while. That includes masks in crowds and vaccines. He says we are somewhere between a pandemic, which we still have, and an endemic, and unless there’s some major event or new therapy, COVID is going to be with us for the foreseeable future.

            Thursday, December 2 at 8:00 a.m. is the next Morning Medical Update. Sleep is precious no matter when and how you're able to get it. But COVID has caused a lot of people to lose valuable shut eye. We've got advice from a sleep expert on how to cope.  We'll also take a look at how a recall involving CPAP machines is impacting patients here in our area.

NOTE:  Journalists should rejoin the Morning Medical Update at 8am as doctors are growing too busy again for individual interview requests.  Please bring questions or send to until further notice.  Thanks for all you do and helping to keep the community safe with your reporting.

ATTENTION: media procedure for calling in:

 The meeting is available by Zoom, both video and by phone. To join the Zoom Meeting by video, click

Telephone dial-in Participants: For those without Zoom, call 1-312-626-6799, meeting ID: 782 897 8628.

The feed is also available via TVU grid. The TVU source is UoK_Health and is being made available to all.

Feel free to send questions in advance to