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Local hospitals call for caution to protect healthcare workers who are in short supply

QUINCY, Ill. (WGEM) -- Both Missouri Governor Mike Parson and Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker spoke this week about an increasingly strained healthcare system in both states, specifically dwindling bed supply and a thinning workforce due to staff becoming ill themselves.

Hospitals across the region, including Blessing Hospital, Scotland County Hospital and Hannibal Regional Hospital all have plans in place to monitor staffing levels.

Scotland County Hospital officials said although they have enough beds available, they don't have the required staffing levels, with around 10 percent of their clinical staff out this week due to COVID-19-related reasons.

"So that has decreased our ability to accept patients and we are struggling to manage the influx of patients who do need beds," Chief Nurse Officer Elizabeth Guffy said.

John Simon, Adams County Emergency Management Director and EMS Chief, said they're prepared to help move people to where they need to be taken for care should area hospital staff not be able to keep up with demand.

"We are prepared that if we need to immediately transfer somebody out. We're talking more of a worst case scenario, if there is no capacity and somebody needs a critical care bed that we can move though," said Simon.

At Blessing Hospital, doctors said the ability to move patients is now critical as their number of ICU beds sits at zero, but while they could add beds, they wouldn't have the doctors or nurses to staff the extra beds.

"We have the physical space to accomplish more expansion. We do not have the staff at this time to expand any further," said Dr. Mary Frances Barthel with Blessing Health System.

Hannibal Regional Healthcare System President and CEO Todd Ahrens said they're seeing 30-40% more people in the hospital than they typically would this time of the year, with about 40 COVID patients.

Ahrens said there is a plan in place should they see a COVID surge. He said they are prepared for a surge of up to nearly 300 COVID patients, some needing critical care and some not. He said that plan includes having the necessary beds and staff in place.

"(Should we see a surge) you know we'd be converting a lot of non-clinical areas to clinical areas to take care of patients, but right now you know the thing we need most is to keep our staff, and by that, I mean physicians and nurses and all the clinical folks involved healthy," said Ahrens.

Ahrens said that's where you come in.

"One of the things we're asking the community to consider is Governor Parson and other politicians' statements about wearing masks, social distancing, washing your hands, being careful at Thanksgiving about who you're around," said Ahrens.

Simon said the fight starts with the testing, so you know if you need to isolate.

"It's our best attempt at driving down the spread here in Quincy in Adams County," said Simon.

Frank Healy

Multimedia Journalist at WGEM

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