Gov. Parson announces plan to open more beds for COVID-19 patients; Cox and Mercy working to do the same in the mean time

Kara Strickland reports.
Published: Dec. 2, 2020 at 9:05 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Governor Mike Parson announced new plans to help staff Missouri hospitals Wednesday. The state will work with the company Vizient to deploy up to 760 additional medical workers across the state.

“I want all Missourians to know that if you’re sick, we are going to take care of you,” Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said in a news conference.

Governor Parson said the state’s 12-week partnership will provide more registered nurses, respiratory therapists and certified nurse assistants across the state. Steve Edwards with CoxHealth said this is exactly what his hospital system needs.

”They’ve asked how many we could use, and in all categories we could use 150,” Edwards said. “We are building physical capacity but we need the qualified staff to augment our nurses. "

The project will be funded first by the state. Hospital partners will pick up the rest, but it’s unclear when and where the new staff will be coming from.

”What we know is this pandemic is in every state, and so where before we might be competing with just a few states, we’re competing against 49 other states and the District of Columbia now for this important staff,” said Missouri Hospital Association President and CEO Herb Kuhn.

In the mean time, Springfield hospitals are working to free up bed capacity on their own. Mercy hospital is now opening up in-home care for patients with mild symptoms who may need low-flow rates of oxygen through Mercy Virtual.

”For us, being able to have beds available for those critically ill patients is vital to be able to save lives and treat patients that need immediate interventions,” said Melissa McGinnis, a Mercy Hospitalist Physician.

The free-of-charge virtual care for select patients will provide 24-hour monitoring, including measurement of oxygen saturation by pulse oximetry, adjusting oxygen flow as necessary, along with additional evaluations and appropriate interventions.

”They will get daily messages to see how their symptoms are doing, to see if they’re getting better or getting worse and that will go on for 14 days,” McGinnis said.

If the status of any patient changes during monitoring or symptoms worsen, the hospital says patients will be evaluated by the Mercy Virtual team and directed to the most appropriate level of care. McGennis said this allows patients to get the same quality of care, just from home. The program is offered to qualifying ER patients as well.

Edwards said this is a tactic CoxHealth is working on, too.

”We’re doing that, and actually we’re expanding that program this Friday,” he said. " So we can send patients home on higher levels of monitoring, we also have virtual care so physicians can make rounds on them at home through telemedicine, we can do pulse oximeter, we can do oxygen.”

The governor’s plan is paid for by federal CARES Act funding and is expected to add nearly 600 hospital beds statewide.

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