Springfield hospitals receive support from traveling nurses, doctors and respiratory therapists

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – Local hospitals have been in dire need of help following a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, and some of that much-needed support has gained ground towards the city.

There are currently 259 patients in Springfield hospitals. Cox Health treats 125 people with the virus. Mercy peaked at 137 on Sunday and 32 patients were in intensive care on Monday. Of these 32 patients, 30 of them were on ventilators.

As of January, Mercy had 107 cases and 37 patients in intensive care. Of these patients, only 15 were on ventilators.

“As we look at our growing census and have released it over the past two weeks, we have passed the peak of last year,” said Mercy Springfield, Executive Director, Erik Frederick.

As Mercy and Cox see record numbers, there has been a continued need to adapt. Mercy has just opened its sixth COVID unit for the first time.

“We developed our plan last year so that we could expand our units as our census grew,” Frederick said. “What we had to do was expand into a second intensive care unit. So our main intensive care unit, where we keep our COVID patients, has 23 beds available. We have reached 34 patients today. So we needed to have this second COVID intensive care unit, which we did. “

Hospitals say the growing demand for beds and ventilators is linked to the Delta variant.

“This disease is different,” said CoxHealth CEO and Chairman Steve Edwards. “It’s faster, sicker and younger. I would say the build-up time from 14 to 125 patients, which was about five weeks for us, was almost three times faster than during the winter. “

As they continue to manage available Resources, Cox and Mercy say some of the help most needed has arrived – more staff.

“I think we have about 27 more nurses next Monday and maybe 60 more over the next three weeks, which is a godsend,” Edwards said.

Cox also has 10 new respiratory therapists coming up and more than 80 have responded to a request for help on Twitter, Edwards said.

In Mercy, 10 more doctors from the St Louis area arrived this week.

“They will start taking shifts to take the strain off some of our interns, and they will just be part of our regular rotation of doctors,” Frederick said. “So we’re very grateful for that, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. And thank you to our internal staff. Our nurses, they do a lot of extra shifts to try to step up and help out like they did last year. I think it’s a bit more taxing this year, given the volume. Relief is therefore welcome. “

The additional help comes just as medical experts expect a possible increase in cases on July 4.

“As of July 19, our forecast tool is predicting between 153 and 178 COVID patients at COX,” Edwards said. “I don’t know how we’ll be able to handle this, but we’re going to do everything we can to try to manage this volume of patients. It will be a record for Cox and Mercy.

Edwards said a handful of Cox employees are also currently hospitalized.

“Right now we have three employees who are hospitalized with COVID,” he said. “Currently, one of them consumes 50 liters of oxygen. And to give you a benchmark, if you’re on oxygen, you’re normally under two to three liters. And I will say that these employees, the oldest is 31 years old.

These three hospitalized employees are not vaccinated, Edwards said. He said there was still some hesitation about the vaccine among hospital workers. Edwards said between 90% and 95% of doctors in the hospital are vaccinated and less than 65% of total employees are vaccinated.

“We understand that. This reluctance is almost directly related to your level of education in our organization, ”he said. “So our doctors hesitate the least. And people with less education are more hesitant. We understand that it is very complicated.

Last week, Mercy announced it would require vaccinations among its employees. Edwards said Cox does not currently require a vaccination.

“We are evaluating it,” he said. “An important decision point for us is FDA approval. And this is information that we do not yet have. We’ve been trying to follow science all this time. And while we believe the vaccine is safe and effective, without full FDA approval, there are employees and there are people who are hesitant. And I think the hesitation can go away if the FDA approval happens. And so we’re going to follow the science and we’re going to evaluate, and that’s going to be a big decision maker for us. “

Both hospitals say they are doing well now on ventilator supplies after the surge of patients created a shortage in Mercy earlier this month. The hospital very quickly received additional ventilators from its partner hospitals. No Mercy’s patient who needed a ventilator was ever without it.

Frederick said he also noticed some positive trends in vaccination. He said Mercy has seen an increase in daily appointments from 150 to 250 at her clinics.

“Today I think the story is really exciting to see vaccine activity in our community,” he said. “I have seen some of these great faith community organizations ramp up. It’s exciting. We have the impression that things are starting to gain momentum and go in the right direction. So I think for me that’s good news for sure.

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