Keely Connolly thought she would be safe once the ambulance arrived at Hutchinson Regional Medical Center in Kansas.

She was having difficulty breathing because she’d had to miss a kidney dialysis treatment a few days earlier for lack of child care. Her potassium was dangerously high, putting her at risk of a heart attack. But she trusted she would be fine once she was admitted and dialysis was begun.

She panicked when a nurse told her that no beds were available and that she would have to be transferred — possibly more than 450 miles away to Denver. She had heard a rumor about a dialysis patient who died waiting for a bed at a hospital in Wichita, about an hour down the

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