Springfield’s Cox South hospital adding 36 new rooms to deal with COVID-19 surge

Published: Nov. 24, 2020 at 7:08 PM CST
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The continuing concern over area hospitals reaching their capacities because of the coronavirus pandemic has Cox South adding an entire floor of new rooms to address the problem.

When CoxHealth added a 343,000-square-foot west tower addition in 2015 marking the hospital’s largest expansion since it was originally built in 1983, the third, fourth and fifth floors were left empty to provide for future expansion.

No one thought that expansion would come so soon starting with the creation of a 51-bed unit specifically designed for COVID-19 patients in April.

And now with the number of COVID-19 cases surging at a rapid pace, another floor is full of construction workers busy 20 hours a day building 36 new rooms that can house as many as 72 extra beds.

“At the beginning this floor will be used for COVID patients,” said Amanda Hedgpeth, Cox’s Vice-President of Hospital Operations. “Either active COVID patients or what we call post-COVID or convalescing patients. This is built with flexibility though so that once we’re on the other side of this the unit can be utilized for normal hospital acuity patients outside of COVID.”

But right now the demand for COVID-19 beds is the top priority.

“We’re unfortunately at our highest watermark in terms of taking care of COVID positive patients here in Springfield,” Hedgpeth pointed out. “We set a new record on Saturday.”

That new record at Cox was 161 patients which is why the original 51-bed COVID care unit is not enough. The newest unit will bring the total number of new beds added since the pandemic started to 147 at Cox and with projections of over 200 COVID-19 related patients in the coming weeks, the hospital needs this extra space even before the expected December 11th completion date.

“Unfortunately we have days where we are really at that high capacity mark,” Hedgpeth explained. “We have ICU beds that are full. We have med surgery beds that are full. We have staffs who are frankly exhausted and are worn out and at that point of saying, ‘Please help us stop the spread of this’.”

Cox officials say one way you can help is to not have large Thanksgiving gatherings.

“We see that as a potential super-spreader event and we don’t have the capacity,” said CoxHealth CEO/President Steve Edwards. “And I don’t want to be the person at my Thanksgiving that gave my mother COVID.”

“The current trajectory is this isn’t going to get better in the near future,” added Dr. Robin Trotman, a Infectious Disease Specialist at Cox. “We’re not going to wanna have to call families and give them bad news over the phone on the holidays. But we’re going to have to do that.”

Edwards continues to point out another way to deter the rapid need for more beds.

“I’d love for our state to do what I think 35 or 36 other states have done and put in more broad mask mandates,” he said of Governor Parson’s refusal to approve a statewide mask mandate even as the pandemic numbers continue to go up in Missouri. “Looking at it (a mandate) statewide made less sense when the numbers were low. Let St. Louis do what they need to do but maybe let a small rural county with no cases do something differently. It makes sense until the whole state gets to the point where we are (now). And those numbers have changed rapidly in the last week.”

And with holiday travel expected to cause the virus spread to worsen in the weeks ahead, those new rooms may be needed even more.

Cox will need around 150 nurses to staff the new floor and will use existing employees as well as traveling nurses who’ll come in to help.

Copyright 2020 KY3. All rights reserved.