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Ventilator and staffing shortages force rural Missouri hospitals to seek help


Some hospitals in Missouri saw a spike in Covid-19 cases by nearly 27% last weekend, which caused some to experience a ventilator shortage.

Dr. Robin Blount with Boone Hospital said the biggest hot spot is southwest Missouri in the Springfield and Joplin area. "I know this morning they were reporting that in Springfield between Mercy and CoxHealth they had over 300 inpatients," said Blount.

The ventilator issue was happening at Mercy Springfield after the weekend forcing them to bring ventilators from surrounding Mercy hospitals in St. Louis, Northwest Arkansas, and Oklahoma City.

On Monday, Erik Fredrikson with Mercy Springfield tweeted that they are running almost 50 ventilators and searching for more. He said they are expanding a second Covid ICU and have travel nurses coming this week.

Kaitlyn McConnell spokesperson for CoxHealth said they have 96 inpatients with Covid in the system on Tuesday. McConnell said the issue at CoxHealth is not supplies or space, but staffing has been their biggest issue.

As the hospital continues to search for traveling staff and new hires, they have had to transfer 12 patients to other facilities over the weekend in St. Louis, Kansas City, and Columbia.

Mary Beck, Chief Nursing Officer at MU Health Care, said some rural hospitals don't have the capabilities that they have for the higher level of care. MU Health Care has an increased number of pulmonary care specialists working in the ICU.

Beck said they have accepted some patients from other hospitals. "We also have to say that we can't take everyone that they want to send. There are times where we say we'll put you on a waitlist because we are at capacity with our other patients that need other procedures," said Beck.

According to the state dashboard, in central Missouri, 13 Covid-19 patients are on ventilators and 56% of the ventilator capacity remains open.

Beck said of the 51 Covid-19 patients, 11 of them required ventilators and 8 of them are Boone County residents.

Missouri has the most, new Covid-19 cases per capita over the past 14 days of any state in the country.

The increase in cases in Springfield and all over Missouri is attributed to the fast-spreading Delta variant and the low vaccination rates.

On Tuesday, Boone County reported 104 new cases which is the first time in triple digits since January 27.

Just under 45% of state residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine which is down from the national average of 54.7%.

Beck said it is possible if you are vaccinated that you can still get the virus, but it would be very rare to be hospitalized.

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Chanel Porter

Chanel joined ABC 17 News in January 2021 after graduating from Penn State University. She enjoys traveling and a daily iced coffee.


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