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'We are stretched' | As COVID-19 cases rise, St. Louis area hospitals have staff shortages

"We are seeing them have COVID-19. We're seeing nurses retire early and we're seeing compassion fatigue in the population," Rocchio said

ST. LOUIS — COVID-19 numbers in the St. Louis area are increasing as the amount of hospital staff decreases.

"Staffing is tight right now, to be honest with you, we are stretched a little bit," Mercy's Chief Nurse Officer Betty Jo Rocchio said.

Rocchio said it's not just nurses, but also clinical caregivers that assist and take care of the patient. 

She said there are several reasons there's a shortage.

RELATED: 'We'll have to make choices of who can't be helped,' St. Louis pandemic task force warns

"We are seeing them have COVID-19. We're seeing nurses retire early and we're seeing compassion fatigue in the population," Rocchio said.

With virtual learning, more staff members are also staying at home with their children.

This decrease in staff also contributes to the nurse shortage prior to the pandemic. 

Rocchio said they've been working hard to attract more candidates through virtual events.

One of SSM Healthcare's Nursing Operations Manager, Dawn Stratmann, said they're also trying to get more helping hands.

"One of the things we’ve been really working on is working with other agencies all over the country to providing nursing staff for our patients here," Stratmann said.

Head of the St. Louis Pandemic Task Force, Dr. Alex Garza, said they're also doing their part to assist.

"We need additional staffing and capacity, now we're working with the state to determine exactly what that looks like," Dr. Garza said. 

To help out with staffing, they may bring in auxiliary staff to open up some of the units that are closed, Dr. Garza said.

Missouri Hospital Association's spokesperson said this plan means that nothing is off the table when it comes to finding and hiring more trained caregivers.

But until a plan comes to fruition, health officials are asking for the community's help.

Rocchio made a plea to the community. 

"If they could help, stay home when feeling sick, mask up and hand hygiene. It really does go a long way," she said.