Springfield hospitals prepared as COVID-19 cases increase

Published: Jun. 23, 2020 at 11:16 AM CDT
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As cases of COVID-19 increase throughout the Ozarks, we asked Springfield's hospitals how they are handling the surge.

At Mercy Hospital in Springfield, medical staff reports seven patients hospitalized with the coronavirus. The hospital has resources for about another 70 patients, with an even greater surge capacity if needed.

CoxHealth reports a dozen COVID-19 patients hospitalized across the system, 7 at Cox South. The Springfield hospital's COVID-19 unit can house up to 51, but sits empty. CEO Steve Edwards says that could change.

"We decided two weeks ago that we got to get it ready again. By get it ready, I mean making sure it's cleaned and ready to go," says Edwards.

Edwards doesn’t see an end to the spread. "The likelihood is that this disease will keep going until it runs out of fuel, and that means sixty to seventy percent of the country gets it without a vaccine," Edwards says. "What we hope to do is build a bridge between now and that vaccine, by slowing it down."

Over the last three months, both hospitals have been preparing. Cox says it is adding about 60 more beds to the hospital this year, and now has enough PPE supplies to cover a year-long surge.

"The city and the county bought us time to get ready. We brought in more equipment. We brought in more physical capacity, and we didn't lay off a single person. We need everyone we have, so we're glad that we are far better prepared than 3 months ago, 100 days ago," Edwards says.

Mercy Springfield chief administrative officer, Erik Frederick, says the hospital remains in its response phase, meeting each morning with key leaders and health officials. But they feel blessed the recent surge in cases has not filled up ICU beds.

"The Greene County Health Department did an incredible job rallying the community. The leadership here at Mercy, as well as Cox, responded very effectively to prepare the community," Frederick says. "The community itself responded very well and did what they were asked to do to help us flatten the curve very quickly."

Mercy Springfield is keeping in contact with its sister hospitals that are seeing a greater spike in cases, including northwest Arkansas and the very southwest corner of Missouri.

"We stand by ready to help in any way we can," said

Frederick. "Our goal would be to take on transfers of patients that maybe non-COVID so that we could care for those, while they continue to care for those that are sick within their own communities. But we're aware of their situation daily, and we know, as of right now, there's been no request to take patients from any of our sister hospitals."

Frederick says despite recent layoffs, the hospital has the nursing and clinical staff to care for a surge.

"The economic impacts from covid-19 expected, and we had to make some decisions that were very challenging," Frederick says. "But we continue to resource, especially our nursing staff and clinical staff. None of those staff were laid off. Some were furloughed, but all have returned from furlough after a time away from the organization. So again, we feel confident we have not only the equipment and room and physician leadership, but we have the nurses available as well."

To keep space in hospitals, health officials ask that you continue to wear your masks, use social distancing, and keep your hands clean.