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CoxHealth could start diverting COVID-19 patients as cases surge, Mercy Hospital intends to keep all patients in Springfield

Updated: Jun. 18, 2021 at 8:45 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - As hospitalization numbers continue to surge in Springfield, CoxHealth warned Friday its facilities may have to start sending COVID-19 patients to other hospitals across the state.

President and CEO of CoxHealth, Steve Edwards, says the hospital is getting about 18 new COVID-19 patients a day in a recent stretch, meaning they may need to start diverting people to St. Louis and Kansas City.

CoxHealth sites have 79 people hospitalized with the coronavirus as of Friday, which is five times more than a month ago. Edwards says 90% of the new infections are the Delta variant.

“They’re putting themselves in harm’s way to protect people that could’ve protected themselves because virtually every single patient in the hospital with COVID is not completely vaccinated,” Edwards says.

Intensive Care Unit nurse at Cox, Sarah Henslee, says this is giving her flashbacks to the peak of the pandemic last year.

“To be blunt, it is kind of like a horror story,” Henslee says. “Living in a real life horror story or a war zone.”

Cox brought in more than 280 traveling nurses to help with the high caseloads last fall. But now, it’s hard for the hospital to hire more.

“Many travelers are kind of seasonal and so they’re taking the summers off,” Edwards says. “That challenges us.”

That is another reason the hospital may have to start turning people away. The hospital is tight on employees to care for the patients, having to only rely on the nurses they have on staff.

“We’re already exhausted,” Henslee says. “We’re already emotionally fatigued. We’ve already been through this, and now we’re having to go through it again.”

Mercy currently has 83 people hospitalized with COVID-19. President Craig McCoy says the hospital is committed to staying open and taking in any new patients.

“We believe the best care is close to home where you have access to your loved ones and your other support network,” McCoy says. “We are committed to do that.”

For Cox ICU nurse Kristyn Scott, this recent surge is already taking a toll on her mental health.

“Just hearing those family members saying like ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘I love you’ or whatever, knowing they’re never going to see them again,” Scott says. “This is the end. It isn’t easy. It’s really hard on us.”

Henslee agrees, saying the pandemic has changed the way she views life now.

“When is this ever gonna end,” Henslee says. “When are we going to actually see the light at the end of the tunnel. Or are we?”

Edwards says if they do have to divert a patient, it’s usually temporary while the hospital waits for others to be discharged which would free up more beds in Springfield.

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