Mercy and CoxHealth, the two major health care systems serving the Springfield metropolitan region, are responding to a significant spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations.
On Friday, CoxHealth said on Facebook it “may soon begin diverting some COVID-19 patients to other facilities throughout the state” due to the significant surge in patients. CoxHealth reports having 79 inpatients with COVID-19, a jump it describes as a "more than five-fold increase” from less than a month ago.
When a local hospital goes on "divert,” or diversion status, it temporarily declines to admit new patients until others are first discharged. This allows for a facility to maintain levels of staffing and bed space necessary for adequate patient care.
“Given that other large cities in Missouri are not surging, their hospitals may have sufficient capacity and be able to help us care for our community in this surge, which is associated with the Delta variant,” the CoxHealth Facebook statement said.
CoxHealth no longer has many of the travel nurses it relied on several months ago, the statement said. You can listen to CoxHealth president and CEO Steve Edwards talk to NPR's Ari Shapiro about the impact of the Delta variant on the recent surge here.
Mercy Springfield: no plans to go on diversion status
At a Friday evening press conference, president of Mercy Springfield Communities Craig McCoy said Mercy does not plan to go on diversion status.
“We remain open to take care of anyone who shows up at our doors,” McCoy said. He confirmed that Mercy is also experiencing a high number of COVID admissions.
“Our current COVID census is 74 admitted with nine more [COVID positive] pending admission in the ER currently. And so we’re feeling the same pressure,” McCoy said, adding that there is a history of collaboration between the two health care systems.
McCoy said Mercy stands poised to use its network of regional hospitals if needed.
“We have critical access hospitals in Mountain View, Aurora and Cassville, and an acute care hospital in Lebanon as well. We also have a multi-phase plan to continue to open additional beds at some of our other facilities, like our orthopedic hospital and others—if we get pushed to that level of need,” McCoy said.
Both health care leaders are imploring the public to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. McCoy said only two out of the scores of hospitalized COVID patients had been vaccinated—and that doctors said, given their comorbidities, those two probably would have had even more severe cases without the vaccine.
“If you look at the day before yesterday, we had 77 COVID patients in house. Out of that, two of those had been vaccinated,” McCoy said.
“That’s pure data and concrete evidence there that [the vaccine's] having an impact, over what we had previously seen,” McCoy said.
Generally, more than half of Mercy’s hospitalized patients with COVID-19 are coming from outside Greene County, McCoy said.
There is no cost to Missouri residents for the COVID-19 vaccine. To see a list and a map of vaccination sites, go to www.vaccine417.com.
The vaccination rate of the general population in Greene County has stalled at around 37 percent, according to the Springfield-Greene County Health Department.