University of Missouri Health Care will require nurses who don’t typically care for patients directly to work four 12-hour shifts at the hospital over the next two weeks as they struggle under a number record number of COVID-19 cases.
A notice was posted Jan. 14 for “registered nurses and other licensed healthcare professionals in the School of Medicine currently working in research, administration, etc., who are invited to participate in the workforce pool. ‘clinical work of MU Health Care,’ MU Health Care spokesman Eric Maze wrote in an email to The Independent.
The demand for additional staff is not limited to central Missouri. Ten St. Louis-area hospitals are requesting federal staffing support through the state Emergency Management Agency, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
The initial notice from MU Health alerted nurses that they would have to work in the hospital. Registered nurses who currently do not have assignments involving clinical care must work two 12-hour shifts each for the next two weeks, according to a Wednesday email provided to The Independent and written by Jeanette Linebaugh, senior director of operations from the school’s surgical department. .
Those whose duties currently involve clinical care should take a 12-hour shift at the hospital by February 4, she wrote.
“Weekends and nights are most needed,” Linebaugh wrote.
Along with hospitals across the state, the University of Missouri Hospital at Columbia has seen its COVID-19 inpatient load rise rapidly this month, from 80 on Jan. 1 to 122 Thursday afternoon. Of this number, 62% are not vaccinated.
The state Department of Health and Senior Services reported 3,704 hospitalized patients Monday, with preliminary data showing that number rose to 3,784 on Tuesday, the highest number for any point in the COVID-19 pandemic. Hospital caseloads across the state are up 42% year-to-date.
“The nationwide shortage of healthcare workers, coupled with the continued and growing patient enumeration, growing demand for COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, and growing shortages of our nursing staff have strained our nursing teams in contact with patients, and we need to provide them with additional support,” Maze wrote.
Salaried employees will be paid $75 per hour during their shifts, while those working an hourly rate will receive an additional $25 per hour, plus available bonuses, Linebaugh’s email wrote.
MU Health Care is also increasing its vaccination requirements, KMIZ-TV in Colombia reported Thursday afternoon. Employees who do not receive a reminder when they are eligible could be fired, the station reported.
Statewide, only about 20% of hospital beds and 18% of intensive care beds are available, according to state health department data. The shortage is most acute in the Kansas City area, where only 15% of beds are available, and in the St. Louis area, where 18% of all beds and only 13% of critical care beds are available. .
“Emergency rooms continue to pile up,” said Dr. Clay Dunagan, clinical director of BJC HealthCare, during a briefing on Wednesday by the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force. “We have a large number of people who have to stay in an emergency room overnight or even for several days before they can be transferred to get the care they need.”
There is evidence in daily case reports that the wave of omicron variants has peaked in the St. Louis metro area, but these reports also show that cases are increasing rapidly in more rural areas of the state.
Over the past seven days, the number of reported cases has decreased by 28.6% in the Missouri portion of the St. Louis Metropolitan Statistical Area, but has increased by 61% in 22 southwestern Missouri counties.
The decline is evident throughout the St. Louis metro area, but is most pronounced in St. Louis and St. Louis County, the only jurisdictions requiring masks in public places. On Wednesday, Circuit Judge Richard Stewart denied a request from Attorney General Eric Schmitt for a temporary restraining order from block St. Louis County mask mandate.
Cases are down 34% in St. Louis County and 37% in St. Louis over the past week.
The state health department on Thursday reported 16,509 additional coronavirus infections, the second-highest number in the pandemic. The seven-day average of reported cases, 12,152, is only 1.2% higher than a week ago, but it is more than four times the rate seen at the end of December.
So far this month, 229,610 coronavirus cases have been reported by the state health department. This is 131% higher than the full month of December and 103,489 higher than the previous high month, November 2020.
The daily increase in hospitalizations has slowed in St. Louis, said Dr. Alex Garza, community health manager for SSM Health. That doesn’t mean the wave of omicron variants is over, he said.
“We have more people in hospital now than at any other time during the pandemic,” he said, later adding that there will be “hundreds in hospital for the weeks to come.” .
Keeping accurate track of new infections has become more difficult with the widespread use of rapid-result home antigen tests. The Columbia-Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services implemented a system on Thursday allowing county residents to report positive results of their home test.
Boone County has the highest infection rate in the state so far this month out of 118 local health jurisdictions and the second highest rate in the past seven days. The county health department has reported 7,255 cases since Jan. 1, or about 4% of the county’s population.
The department has received reports from individuals regarding their positive home test but has not tracked the data, spokeswoman Sara Humm wrote in an email. The new system is expected to increase reporting but not identify all positive results, she wrote.
“While we certainly encourage residents to report positive home tests to us, we know not everyone will,” Humm wrote. “So while we’re capturing a lot more home test results with this new system, we still won’t be able to capture all of the home test results.”
This story was originally published on the Missouri Independent.