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MU Health shifts staff as omicron surge keeps going

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ.)

COVID-19 continues to send many people to the hospital and sicken health staff, putting a big strain on doctors and nurses nationwide.

Like many other hospitals, MU Health Care is facing staffing concerns. The providers are now reassigning nurses from non-clinical areas to bedside shifts at its hospitals.

"MU Health Care is experiencing a record-high number of patients hospitalized with active COVID-19, a rise in influenza hospitalizations and staffing pressures related to an ongoing nationwide shortage of health care workers and staff absences related to illness," MU Health Care spokesman Eric Maze wrote in an email Thursday.

According to MU Health Care COVID-19 data, as of Thursday, the hospital had 122 COVID-19 inpatients, 30 ICU patients and 19 patients on ventilators.

"And today we're at 122 for covid, so we're about 20 percent higher than we ever have been before um it's hitting us harder than it ever has before because just like every hospital in America were facing staffing shortages," MU doctor Laura Hesemann said.

MU Health Care has also delayed half of its scheduled elective procedures because of its high demand for Covid-19 patients.

"This Thursday and Friday we're down about 50 percent. So we have delayed those surgeries to happen later. We know these surgeries need to happen but today is not the right day to do those," Hesemann said.

Although the hospital is facing staffing shortages and an uptick in COVID-19 patients they are working hard to adjust staffing and hours as needed.

"We continually assess hospital inpatient and outpatient clinic volumes and adjust staffing and hours of availability as needed to best meet the needs of our community. As an added measure to meet the current pressures, MU Health Care is reactivating its labor pool to proactively identify and deploy nurses working in non-clinical areas to patient-facing areas," Maze wrote.

The labor pool is a staffing accommodation that involves employees who aren't necessarily involved in patient care but have maintained their education and credentials. The assigned employees will receive training so they can assist in roles that are needed.

"We have an obligation to make changes as we can to fulfill our primary mission of delivering patient care and caring for our community. We appreciate the flexibility and dedication of our nurses who contribute to our vital mission of caring for patients," Maze said.

The surge has pushed Boone County's new case numbers to No. 1 in the state per capita. Cole County is No. 2, and Callaway is No. 3. Deaths, however, have been falling statewide.

MU Health and other hospitals have also delayed elective procedures in recent weeks as omicron case levels are diagnosed at unprecedented levels.

Hospitalizations are up in Central Missouri and across the state, according to the Missouri Department for Health and Senior Services. There are currently 249 hospitalized patients and 41 in intensive care in the region. The total COVID-19 hospitalizations for the region and the state as a whole are records, surging beyond the highs set last winter, before vaccines were widely available. However, ICU admissions have not reached those same peaks, as experts say illness from omicron is generally milder than the previously dominant delta variant.

The region has 29% of its inpatient beds available.

"I'd really like people to be thinking about staying at home when they're sick. I know that it's tiring and we are all tired of missing out on social events and we're tired of being away from people. But now more than ever it's important for people to not spread the disease," Hesemann said.

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Kennedy Miller

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