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St. Louis area hospitals battle nursing shortage amid pandemic

"The problem is there aren't nurses and other staff to serve the people," said St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann

ST. LOUIS — A nursing shortage is hitting St. Louis area hospitals hard as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

"Hospitals are telling us they cannot find nurses," St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann said.

Officials say as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in St. Louis city and county, St. Charles County and other areas, so does the nursing vacancy rate.

It currently stands at more than 10% in St. Louis and is expected to increase as the pandemic continues.

"The problem is there aren't nurses and other staff to serve the people," Ehlmann said.

Ehlmann says all four of their hospitals are feeling the staffing shortage.

"Remember back in June, a lot of these hospitals laid people off. I talked to a doctor friend the other day. He said well these people who were laid off, they didn't stay at home and draw unemployment. They went out and found different jobs," Ehlmann said.

"We have joined our profession because we want to serve. The pre-pandemic numbers are nothing close to what we're seeing now, " said Diane Ray, the Senior Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer at St. Lukes Hospital.

Meanwhile, the University of Missouri-St. Louis is working to remedy the nursing shortage.

Friday, UMSL announced plans to build a new, $7 million nursing center expansion officials say will help grow the nursing industry by 20%.

Statement from Carly Smith, spokesperson for SSM Health:

"Much like most hospitals in the St. Louis Metropolitan area SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital-Lake St. Louis has seen a rise in both high-acuity and COVID-19 patients. This has led to obstacles including spacing and staffing. Our employees continue to rise to the challenges we are facing to provide exceptional care. The best way our community can support us, and all hospitals in the area, is by wearing a mask and practice social distancing. We have faith that if we all pull together to do our part, we can disrupt transmission in our community to save lives and get our COVID-19 numbers back down to more sustainable levels."