Gov. Mike Parson talks about southwest Missouri COVID-19 needs during Springfield visit

Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 7:26 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - During the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic last winter we saw places like New York have to set up mobile care centers because their hospitals were overflowing with patients.

Things never got that bad in Springfield, until now.

On Thursday, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson was in Springfield for the first time since local health care leaders outlined their predicament and indicated that the state would help in finding a solution.

On Wednesday the Springfield-Greene County Health Department and the Springfield-Greene County Office of Emergency Management submitted a request to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and the State Emergency Management Agency for a COVID-19 Alternative Care Site (ACS). The request was created in coordination with CoxHealth, Mercy and Jordan Valley Community Health Center in response to the growing need for medical care in the region due to the rise in severe cases of COVID-19 requiring hospitalization and critical care.

Greene County is averaging more than 196 cases per day, and the increase in severe illness is projected to outpace hospital capacity. On Wednesday the county had 405 new cases, one of the top five highest totals since the pandemic began in March, 2020. The total number of COVID-19 patients at Greene County hospitals is back up to the levels of the worst months of the pandemic back in December 2020 and January 2021.

“We’re not trying to create panic but it is a serious situation,” said Brent Hubbard, President and COO of Mercy Hospitals Springfield. “I think across the nation there’s a sense that the pandemic has come to an end and really the pandemic is resurging and we’re experiencing that firsthand in southwest Missouri.”

That’s why officials say they now need to take the extraordinary step of finding an Alternative Care Site that would provide transitional care for COVID-19 patients. A location for this facility is still being determined but health department officials told KY-3 on Thursday that it would most likely be an existing building as opposed to tents or trailers.

“The ACS will provide transitional care for patients stable enough to be released from the hospital thereby allowing additional beds to open up for more severe acute patients,” explained Katie Towns, the Interim Director for the Springfield-Greene Co. Health Department.

“Right now we have 10 to 15 patients-per-day who are waiting on a post-acute bed,” Hubbard added. “That is well over double our highest point in the initial surge.”

In addition to the expanded inpatient facility, the request for state and federal funding would:

  • Provide funding for staffing of additional beds for COVID patients in area hospitals
  • Increase the capacity for antibody treatment
  • Create a centralized location for patients awaiting long-term care placement
  • Offer shelter for unsheltered individuals who are COVID-19 positive
  • Expand mobile testing staff
  • Issue an emergency declaration to fund ambulance support for transfers
  • Extend state waivers for hospital capacity and use.

Governor Parson talked about the situation during his two stops in the area at a road project in south Springfield and a National Community Response Team Convention conference in north Springfield.

When asked if the state could help with the area’s additional needs?

“We can,” he replied. We’ve put Alternative Care Centers up before. Yesterday was the first time they’ve reached out and asked for something and southwest Missouri by all means is probably one of the hottest places in the state right now (for COVID-19 surges). I think most of it we can probably do. There’s also a lot of care-funding on the local level so there may be ways we can partner with the counties and cities and hospitals and all help with that.”

At the Emergency Response Team convention Parson reiterated the need to encourage people to get vaccinated and pointed out that the efforts to get more shots-in-arms was working.

“Right now we’re doing about 56,000 per-week (statewide),” he said. “We hope that number’s going to climb.”

But he also said getting a shot was not something that should be forced on the public.

“I don’t think you should be out there doing the blame game,” Parson said. “People have fundamental rights in this country and we need to respect that whether you like it or not. You can’t just go out there and force people to do this.”

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