Perhaps it’s because Frankfort is the heart of state government that we have grown accustomed to politicians being tight-lipped and evasive when it comes to questions they don’t want to answer. And while those tactics may work in politics, we expect better from our local hospital — especially during a global pandemic that has claimed the lives of 64 Franklin Countians and counting.
Twice The State Journal has asked Frankfort Regional Medical Center for specific information about COVID-19 at the hospital; twice we have been provided with the same boilerplate answer that sidestepped the bulk of our questions about coronavirus data.
We inquired about the number of coronavirus patients being admitted in the past six weeks; how many beds were occupied by COVID-19 patients; whether the ICU was full; and how many of the admitted COVID patients were unvaccinated.
This is the answer we received from hospital spokesman Brad Wands:
“Frankfort Regional Medical Center has seen an increase in COVID-19 patients in the past few weeks, similar to what other hospitals are seeing across the Commonwealth. This increase causes intensive care units to reach capacity at certain times. On a regular basis, there is a continual flow of patients admitted and discharged from the ICU. When nearing capacity, we make every effort to expand additional step-down and medical bed areas.
“Our hospital leaders are continually monitoring the situation closely and continue to plan by assessing resources and support to help meet the needs of our community. We strongly encourage people in our area to get the vaccine and follow the CDC’s recommendations for preventing the spread of the virus.”
He added a quote from hospital CEO Reed Hammond pointing out that hospitalization rates among those who get vaccinated are extremely low.
When our reporter followed up, Wands replied with the same response, word-for-word.
The hospital, to its credit, partially addressed some of our questions and pointed out that vaccines work; however, it failed to provide any of the numbers and statistics that we twice inquired about. Any hospital in the state could have sent us that response.
The information presented in these articles did not make any of the hospitals featured look bad; instead, it increased readers' understanding of the toll that this pandemic’s resurgence has taken on our area health care providers with the use of specific data and stories from those hospitals.
Last week the Franklin County Health Department stated that August’s COVID-19 case count may eclipse January’s record of 1,205. According to FCHD Deputy Director Brittany Parker, the county has been averaging about 200 active cases every day this month.
On Monday, Gov. Andy Beshear announced that 58 of 96 hospitals in Kentucky are reporting critical staffing shortages, and that there are only 115 ICU beds open in the state.
To be clear, the privately owned FRMC is not obligated by law to share specifics with the media or anyone else.
Still, we believe FRMC needs to be more forthright and upfront about the local COVID-19 situation with residents in Franklin and surrounding counties, many of whom count on the hospital for their health care needs.