WASHINGTON, Mo. — The glass doors slide open at Mercy Hospital in Washington, staffing coming and leaving for a shift change. Soon, two physicians take on another duty: temporary assignments at their sister locations in the southwest part of the state, which is currently experiencing a spike in coronavirus cases.
Mercy Hospital Springfield had 134 COVID patients Monday afternoon, a higher number than their last peak.
"Thirty-two are in the intensive care unit, 30 are on ventilators," Cheif Medical Officer Dr. Ann Elizabeth Mohart said, standing outside the Washington emergency room entrance. "That's a pretty astonishing figure. That more than surpasses the typical ICU capacity, so then you have to overflow into other units."
Mohart said two of Washington's three Intensive Care Unit specialists will head to other facilities in the Mercy system.
The Springfield hospital just opened its sixth COVID ward, the most they've had so far.
"If you feel that you are alone in that dark time, that can be morally devastating," Mohart said of the stresses of ICU work during the pandemic. "But we have heard from our colleagues in Springfield that just the fact that their brothers and sisters from throughout the ministry have shown up there today has absolutely lifted their morale."
Springfield staff say the extra hands are much appreciated.
"When we can't do the best job that we know we need to be doing, it causes increasing amounts of stress and burnout," Mercy Hospital Springfield Emergency Trauma Care Executive Director Vicki Good said.
While local doctors head to hotspots, St. Louis area cases continue to rise, jumping 63% in two weeks.
"The tidal wave is coming towards our unvaccinated population, this variant is spreading quickly, and this variant has the ability to devastate those in its wake," St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page said Monday morning.
Mohart says they're ready to adapt should the tides turn.
"Obviously none of us have a crystal ball, so none of us knows what the next few weeks and months will bring," Mohart said, adding "Springfield has already told us, 'If this begins to turn where you all are busiest, we will be right up [Interstate] 44, and we will be there to help fill in those shifts.'"
Mohart said they are shifting schedules and using telemedicine to fill in the vacancies locally. She also adds the best way to help medical professionals is to get a COVID vaccine.