COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Hospitals in Boone County continue to deal with full or nearly full intensive care units.
The high number of people in ICUs causes hospitals to send patients to other health care facilities or have them wait in units not fully equipped for intensive care. MU Health Care reported 69 people in its ICU on Tuesday, with 15 of them positive with COVID-19. UM System President Mun Choi reported on Monday that the ICUs at MU Health Care hospitals were 100% full.
Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human and Human Services reported hospitals in the "green" status as of Monday afternoon. That means local hospitals are working "within licensed bed capacity," and taking patients from other hospitals when needed. The department reported 103 people in local hospitals with COVID-19, with 28 of them in the ICU.
MU Health Care said in a statement Tuesday that it and other hospitals have dealt with this problem before. A majority of those in the ICU are there for other reasons, such as health emergencies and recovery from surgeries.
"We are continually monitoring our bed availability, which fluctuates throughout the day based on admissions and discharges," the statement said. "We have the flexibility to shift resources to create additional space for patients if needed.
Choi cited the ICU numbers on Monday as a reason the UM System should continue requiring masks indoors.
"At that capacity, that does impact our ability to provide vital care to our citizens," Choi said.
Dr. Robin Blount at Boone Health said the ICU at Boone is "frequently" at capacity. Blount said one-half to two-thirds of patients there have COVID-19. Hospital stays for those patients tend to last longer than others, keeping space tight.
"We are frequently unable to accept outside transfers of patients needing ICU care due to the extended stays required by COVID patients and the marked increase numbers of such patients for the past two months," Blount said. "There are times when we are searching for ICU beds at other facilities for patients that arrive in our own emergency department due to capacity."
Blount said a shortage of nurses also makes it difficult for Boone and other hospitals to accept new patients. She said traveling nurse agencies are offering more money to workers than what hospitals are often able to pay.
"That's put pressure back on us because the price tag has nearly doubled, if not more, for traveling nurses," Blount said.
Hospitals statewide dealt with some of the most crowded ICU numbers for COVID-19 patients last month. The state health department reported a pandemic-high daily average of nearly 700 ICU patients in the ICU in late August. That number has steadily dropped since, with a daily average of 555 COVID-19 patients in the ICU over the week ending on Sept. 10.
Blount said Boone Health has helped out hospitals in similar crunches. The hospital recently accepted a patient transfer from southern Oklahoma, and has taken patients from states like Illinois and Iowa. Blount fears the current drop in ICU patients won't last as crowded events continue this fall into the winter.