Boone County hospitals are reaching capacity for COVID-19 patients. I
n a statement released Tuesday, MU Health Care, Boone Hospital Center, Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital and the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services said rising case rates are straining healthcare resources and staffing.
In response to the influx of new patients, the hospitals will begin to enact their individual surge plans. Boone Hospital Center increased its COVID-19 unit capacity from 20 to 32 beds on Monday after weeks of meeting that capacity.
Boone County’s positivity rate is rising, but according to Ashton Day, the health educator for the county, the health department is unsure of the reason why.
“No restrictions changed in the last couple months [and] we’ve been extending the current order,” Day said. “So, really, what it tells us is that people aren’t following the order, people aren’t social distancing and people aren’t wearing masks.”
MU Health Care’s surge plan involves making sure its capacity is able to handle an increase in patients, making sure staff has PPE and rescheduling elective surgeries as necessary. But Associate Chief Medical Officer Mark Wakefield said MU Health Care still needs more support to respond to the pandemic more effectively. One of those things is fast and widespread testing. Wakefield said current COVID tests for patients undergoing treatment take anywhere from three days to two weeks to get results.
“If we had [a] rapid, point of service test that was highly reliable, then we can lower the risk of getting COVID from taking care of routine medical problems,” Wakefield said. Wakefield said another issue affecting MU Health Care’s ability to handle the pandemic is a national shortage of nurses. He said if a nurse gets sick, they are out of action for a few weeks, which ends up putting a further strain on staffing.
“We don’t have enough nurses, but me bringing that up isn’t going to change that overnight,” Wakefield said. The Boone County COVID-19 website will now list the capacity status of the three hospitals.