COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
It's not just hospital beds causing local hospitals to be near capacity. Staff dealing with illness and quarantine is also a large factor.
In a joint statement Tuesday, Boone County's hospitals said they will begin to implement surge plans as the rising number of COVID-19 patients continues to strain their capacity.
The release was a joint statement from leaders at the health department, Boone Hospital Center, University of Missouri Health Care and Truman Memorial Veterans' Hospital.
Hospitalizations continue at record levels across the state, as well. State leaders have said they're concerned about staffing levels statewide as the number of new coronavirus cases continues to increase.
Local hospitals' surge plans could include changing staffing procedures, postponing some elective surgeries and changing visitor policies.
The health department also said in the statement that it will change the way it reports hospital resources to try to create a more accurate picture of how COVID-19 is affecting those institutions. Each hospital will provide a daily report of its status based on three tiers -- red, yellow and green.
Currently, the dashboard is reporting a yellow status. The dashboard says yellow status is if two hospitals report yellow or one hospital reports red. The dashboard does not say which hospital is reporting what status.
The assistant director of the health department Scott Clardy said it was important to change the way things are being reported because as things in hospitals change so rapidly, the previous way they were checking in daily didn't give an accurate picture.
"While they may not be having shortages at that particular time, there may be times during that day or past two days where they had to were not able to accept new patients or something like that," Clardy said. "We weren't able to capture that information so we didn't feel like it was giving an honest, transparent view of what's going on."
Clardy said many of the hospitals were previously using surge plans at the beginning of the pandemic, meaning their cut back on elective procedures and other restrictions.
"It's a good thing that the hospitals have recognized the need to be nimble and adaptable if need be in response to a very significant surge in the number of cases," Clardy said.
He emphasized that regardless of the hospital status posted on their website, they would be able to accept emergency patients, so the community should not put off care.
It's not just the number of hospital beds causing capacity concerns, but the staffing issues related to illness and quarantine. Clardy said this is a major concern they are hearing from the local hospitals.
Staffing is a state-wide issue according to the Missouri Hospital Association. Spokesman Dave Dillon said virtually all hospitals are dealing with a surge of patients in relation to COVID-19.
"If we continue to have these high rates, we are going to have this continued demand on the resource and it's going to be very difficult to build out capacity," Dillon said. " Because it's the staff, the ability to access their talents will determine the ability to provide that care."
Dillon said hospitals are currently transferring patients to other hospitals that might have the capacity to take the patient, but things as cases rise, the resources are slimming.
"We have only a limited capacity statewide," Dillion said. "We are trying to create additional capacity, but that's going to be limited by the staff, equipment and supplies."
Dillon and Clardy both said it is extremely important for the community to follow social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines.
Watch ABC17 News at 9 and 10 for the full report.