Man who raised concerns about hospital bed availability dies from COVID-19

John Bjorkman was hospitalized in September due to COVID-19. (Submitted photo)
John Bjorkman was hospitalized in September due to COVID-19. (Submitted photo)(Dakota News Now)
Published: Oct. 20, 2020 at 12:54 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The De Smet man who raised questions about the availability of hospital beds in Sioux Falls during his battle with COVID-19 has died from the disease.

John Bjorkman died Tuesday morning, according to social media posts from family members. The Gettysburg School District, where Bjorkman previously served as superintendent, also posted news of his death.

Bjorkman was hospitalized due to COVID-19 in late September. He shared the story of his experience fighting the disease with Dakota News Now, including how Avera Health airlifted him to a hospital in Marshall, Minn. after he was told there were no available hospital beds in Sioux Falls.

At the time, Avera said they were working on virtual technology to help free up space in its hospital system. In the weeks since, both Avera and Sanford Health, as well officials with the South Dakota Department of Health, have repeatedly said the state’s hospital beds are not at full capacity. On Monday, an Avera doctor said they have boosted hospital capacity by ten beds, and plan to add more.

The South Dakota Department of Health reports 39.5% of hospital beds are currently available in the state, including 33% of beds in the Sioux Falls area. Statewide, COVID-19 patients are occupying 12.2% of hospital beds, and 22.1% of ICU beds.

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