With limited resources, rural Missouri hospitals struggle as COVID-19 cases continue to rise

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February 07 2021 05:30 pm

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri Governor Mike Parson announced his plans on Wednesday as rural hospitals and hospitals outside of the metro also struggle with COVID-19 related staffing issues.

At the same time, those same hospitals are trying to cut down on their number of patient transfers to Kansas City, according to staff at Western Missouri Medical Center.

Western Missouri Medical Center is considered the healthcare hub in Warrensburg ,40 miles east of the metro. The hospital employs all of the primary care physicians in town.

But their doctors and nurses do not have the resources to handle every serious situation. The result is patient transfers. An option staff says could be restricted if the COVID-19 situation worsens.

“So I don’t want to overburden them with things we can care for here,” Darinda Dick, CEO & President of Western Missouri Medical Center, said.

The hospital recently hired a critical care intensivist full-time to reduce their transfer numbers. Patients with heart attacks or need for a comprehensive stroke center will still require moves, Dick said.

“An urban hospital might have 250 beds. We have 32 acute beds. They might have 600 nurses. We have 150 nurses. So when I’m talking about 10 people out that’s almost 10% of our workforce,” Dick said.

Jennifer Koepke, Chief Nursing Officer at Western Missouri Medical Center, said that retaining workers is also on her mind.

“It’s been pretty stressful,” Koepke said.

“We’re seeing them leaving to go work in physicians’ offices and less high-risk areas. Not to say that we’ve had a ton of nurses leaving us but we’ve lost a couple and when you don’t have a lot to begin with, every single one leaving hurts,” Koepke said.

Hospital staff said that they are not at a breaking point. Still, Darinda Dick said, as CEO, she finds it concerning that she is thinking about situations so close to triage where she, conceivably, would have to step in.

“What does that look like? Is it every one of us in scrubs? I’m an RN also. So is it all of us taking care of the patients?” Dick said. “The reason I would put scrubs on is not only to make them feel safe and supported but our commitment is to this community. And we really do live that mission in this community,” Dick said.

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