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The Ozarks are bracing for severe winter weather. For Mercy hospital, that means setting up staff sleeping quarters.

Courtesy Mercy Springfield
A Mercy worker sets up a cot at the hospital so staff can avoid commuting during expected severe weather beginning Thursday, Dec. 22, until it's safe.

Hospital staff can sleep on campus and avoid commuting home until it's safe.

As the Springfield area braces for a winter storm warning beginning 6 a.m. Thursday, area organizations are taking steps to ensure safety. On Wednesday, Springfield Public Schools canceled Thursday classes. The day before, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson declared a state of emergency.

Meanwhile, Mercy Hospital in Springfield said they’re setting up multiple sleeping areas, so hospital coworkers can safely rest between shifts and avoid commuting home until it’s safe.

Dennis Martin, Mercy's regional manager of environmental safety and emergency management, said some commuters travel up to 2 hours to come to work at Mercy in Springfield and that worker demand for the sleeping areas tends to grow when the weather worsens. Mercy currently has 20 rooms set up for sleeping areas and can expand their capacity if they need to, he said.

"It's something that we do pretty consistently every year when we have weather that might be disruptive," Martin said. The last time Mercy set up staff sleeping quarters was in February of this year, he said.

Mercy officials said their overall goal is to ensure the community has access to health care despite the weather.

"No matter what the storm throws at us, our goal is to be here to serve our patients — and that's why these plans are in place," said Mercy spokesperson Sonya Kullman.

Gregory Holman is a KSMU reporter and editor focusing on public affairs and investigations.