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Springfield hospitals overloaded and ‘in the middle of a crisis,’ contrary to what Mo. governor says

The surge of patients has even increased wait times
Published: Jul. 8, 2021 at 10:57 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The surging COVID-19 case loads are draining resources and drawing out wait times in emergency rooms across the Ozarks.

Hospitals across the Ozarks say the recent spike is having an impact on just how soon they get to patients. A spokesperson with CoxHealth told KY3 response efforts these days are consumed by very fluid situations. The hospital has had to quickly adapt, and in some cases send COVID-19 patients outside the area to get care.

In one case, a COVID-19 patient was sent to Dallas, Texas. While Mercy has not sent patients out of the area, both hospitals say emerging needs are taking a toll across the board.

“Patients are much sicker than the patients we’ve been seeing in the past,” Mercy Springfield nurse Tracy Hill said on Thursday. “That cuts down the nurse to patient ratio.”

The spreading delta variant is now why local hospitals describe the area as the “heart” of COVID-19. There are now more cases, higher illnesses, and not enough medical staff.

”Math will tell you we can’t take care of as many patients when they’re that sick,” Hill said.

While local hospitals say Southwest Missouri is in the middle of a crisis, Gov. Mike Parson said the contrary on Thursday.

”The hospitals are not overwhelmed at this point, or bed space, we know that looking at the data everyday,” Gov. Parson said. “We’re all concerned about the spike in the Delta variant, but to try to mislead people that we’re in a crisis is totally misleading. We’re not in a crisis mode in this state.”

The governor added that the focus should be on finding a solution on getting more people to take the vaccine. A spokesperson with CoxHealth said in the area is “in the middle of a crisis.”

Doctors with Cox said the crisis is one that even goes beyond the COVID-19 ICU.

”We’re seeing all of the regular problems that would bring patients to the emergency department, all those levels are essentially back to normal,” said Dr. Howard Jarvis, Medical Director of Emergency Departments for CoxHealth. “But on top of it you’ve got a really high COVID volume.”

Those patients have taken more time and more effort,which Jarvis said has certainly increased waiting time.

”There’s still a limited number of beds, there’s a limited number of physicians, a limited number of nurses, so and quite honestly it takes quite a bit longer to see COVID patients than it does to see some other patients,” he said.

Many COVID-19 patients are now hospitalized for longer periods of time. Nurses with Mercy say a shortage of beds is not the biggest issue.

”It doesn’t matter if you have a thousand beds, if you don’t have nurses to take care of a thousand patients, and physicians for that matter, it doesn’t really matter how many beds you have,” she said.

Hill, a nurse with Mercy, was one of the first people to get vaccinated in Springfield. Now she said the cost of being un-vaccinated comes with far greater risks than the shot itself.

”You come here and we will try our hardest to get you better,” Hill said. “We’ll do everything that we can to help you get home to your family, but the reality is you may not go home.”

Mercy says 95% of its COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated. A CoxHealth spokesperson said right now it does not know the exact percentage of COVID-19 patients who are not vaccinated, but only four vaccinated patients had COVID-19 pneumonia throughout the entire pandemic.

Medical professionals with both hospitals say the fraction of COVID-19 patients who have been vaccinated, tend to be out of the hospital in a matter of days and do not end up getting seriously ill.

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