Hospitals across Missouri will soon receive help from a Texas-based company the state is hiring to provide additional workers and hospital beds.
Gov. Mike Parson announced Wednesday that the state has hired Vizient to provide temporary workers and additional beds for hospitals in Missouri overrun with coronavirus patients. He said Vizient will provide up to 760 temporary workers across the state.
“When fully deployed, this will add nearly 600 total beds to our statewide bed capacity, including some critical care beds,” Parson said.
The temporary workers will include registered nurses, respiratory therapists and certified nurse assistants, Parson said. The state will fund the 12-week partnership with federal CARES funds through the end of the year. Hospitals will then pay the rest through February.
“States like Arizona have also worked with Vizient through the COVID-19 crisis, and we are hopeful that this will provide meaningful support for our hospitals and the people of Missouri,” Parson said.
State officials will release details on the funding once the costs are finalized. The governor said the state will reevaluate the partnership in the coming months.
“I don’t think anyone knows where we’re going to be in 12 weeks," Parson said. “I think by the end of February, that distribution of the vaccine, whether it’s in Tier 1 or Tier 2 is going to make a difference, so I think what we’re going to do is we’re going to reevaluate it in February, see where we’re at.”
Missouri hospitals need additional workers to assist overworked doctors and nurses, said Herb Kuhn, president and CEO of the Missouri Hospital Association.
“In the days and weeks ahead as these workers arrive, they will provide essential support to our hospital and health care workers, those who have been on the front lines of care since March,” Kuhn said.
The announcement comes after health officials and government leaders in the St. Louis region said they were worried about how they would care for an expected rise in coronavirus patients. Many have called for Parson to issue a statewide mask mandate to help keep the virus from spreading.
Deaths related to COVID-19 in Missouri topped 4,000 in updated data released by the state Tuesday. In Missouri, there have been 19,716 new cases, including 60 deaths, reported in the past seven days.
State Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester, said this week that he thinks the region’s hospitals are not overburdened.
“There is 18% capacity left in ICU beds and total hospital beds, there’s capacity for 49%,” Koenig said Tuesday on St. Louis on the Air. “This notion that hospitals are 100% overrun and 100% full, this is false. It’s not true.”
Dr. Alex Garza, head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, said Wednesday on St. Louis on the Air that Missouri’s rising coronavirus case numbers continue to push the health care system to its limits.
“For the state, they’ve been using the normal beds that we have, but how we look at it is our staffed beds and the reason being, a bed doesn’t treat a patient, people treat patients,” Garza said. “If we don’t have the staff to treat the patient, then we take the beds offline.”
Garza said the area’s ICU hospital capacity is at about 96%. Last Friday, SSM Health’s hospital in Lake St. Louis had to fly a patient to Quincy, Illinois, because no ICU bed in the St. Louis area was available, he said.
“Our ICU doctors and our ICU nurses would be happy to explain to anybody about our capacity,” Garza said.
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“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.