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Federal medical team coming to north St. Louis County hospital for COVID-19 surge assistance

Through FEMA, the U.S. Navy is deploying the 44 person crew, which will arrive Jan. 26.

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — A St. Louis hospital is getting some much needed help from the federal government.

Christian Hospital in north St. Louis County, which is within the BJC HealthCare system, has been chosen to provide resources to underserved communities.

The 44 person U.S. Navy crew being provided through FEMA is expected to arrive on Jan. 26.

"They will arrive in then and later on that week, they will probably actually start seeing patients.

"Additional help like this is a godsend. Additional help like this eases the burden of our staff and it allows us to provide even better care. We have a lot of staff that are truly burned out," said Rick Stevens, the president of Christian Hospital.

The crew, including several positions such as doctors and nurses, are coming at a critical time. 

"We've seen a lot of our staff get sick. Today, we had 100 staff members that were out sick out of 1,800. Anytime we have that high of a number of staff out, that affects us and how we provide care," Stevens added.

This deployment coordinated by the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) comes after the St. Louis Pandemic Task Force sent a letter seeking federal aid to support 11 facilities in our region.

With limited resources, one hospital was picked.

"We have the busiest emergency room here in the state of Missouri, so hopefully, we'll get some resources for the emergency room for critical care. " Stevens said.

There are critical factors in this decision.

One involves the overwhelming number of COVID-19 patients and the other is to provide resources to underserved communities.

The hope is that by adding resources to north St. Louis County that other facilities will benefit as well.

Jennings Councilmember Terry Wilson felt the need for help, even before the pandemic hit.

"We've had a lack of resources in north (St. Louis) County, we had a lack of healthcare in north (St. Louis) County. That's why we've been hit the worst," Wilson said.

Stevens said north St. Louis County has been hit the hardest and disproportionately higher than the other parts of the county with COVID-19 patients.

But Wilson feels like their efforts are working and they're being heard.

"It showed that someone was listening and it shows that someone heard the cry. It's about time, but I'm glad that the help is here," he added. 

This week leaders from federal agencies will meet to make plans for the medical team.

The team will be stationed at Christian Hospital for about 30 days.

A crew has also been at the Research Medical Center in Kansas City since Jan. 7.

That team has been assisting with emergency department decompression and was granted an extension to continue providing care through Feb. 4.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is granting variance requests for extending waivers of rules authorized during the state of emergency that allow regulatory flexibility for expanded bed capacity to Missouri hospitals.

Rep. Cori Bush, D-Missouri, is also behind this effort to get federal help. On Jan. 6, she wrote to Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, calling on him to leverage federal aid to address the COVID-19 crisis in St. Louis.

Bush released a statement Friday:

“As we made clear in our letter to Governor Parson more than two weeks ago, St. Louis needed him to step up and request federal assistance to help our region respond to the Omicron variant.

"Ever since, we have remained in consistent contact with state and local health departments, FEMA and health care leaders in our region as we pushed for this relief that our communities have desperately needed. Today, we are one step closer to having what our community needs to address this pandemic.

"This federal assistance is a lifeline for our nurses, doctors and other health care professionals who have given so much of themselves to save lives in the midst of this crisis, and it will help our hospitals to more adequately meet the needs of our St. Louis community throughout this surge.”

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