Military medical team heads to St. Louis to support Christian Hospital - Rick L. Stevens

Rick L. Stevens — Christian Hospital

A 40-member team will begin arriving at BJC-Christian Hospital in North St. Louis County on Wednesday, a news release from BJC HealthCare stated. The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force had sought help through the State Emergency Management Agency for help at 11 hospitals in the metropolitan area.

“In addition to the impact from overwhelming numbers of COVID patients, providing resources to underserved communities was a critical factor in the decision to choose Christian, located in North County, as the facility to receive this aid,” the release stated. “The hope is that by adding resources to North County that other facilities will benefit as well.”

While he wouldn’t give specific numbers of cases in his hospital, Christian president Rick Stevens said it will help cover for about 100 staff who are out sick and currently being replaced by temporary help or the BJC central pool of employees.

“North County has been hit in the St. Louis region the hardest with COVID patients, Stevens said. “We have a high number of patients and we have also had our staff to go out sick. It makes for a difficult and tough situation.”

The announcement came just hours after the state Department of Health and Senior Services reported a record 3,784 people were being treated in hospitals across the state as of Tuesday, with preliminary data showing that number increased to 3,938 on Wednesday.

State health department data released Friday afternoon shows cases continue to set records as well. The department reported 14,532 additional coronavirus infections, sending the daily average of reported cases to 12,813 per day, a new peak.

The only area of the state seeing a significant decline in cases over the past seven days is the St. Louis metropolitan area. The biggest drops are in St. Louis and St. Louis County, the only jurisdictions in the region with mask mandates.

The state reported 249 deaths on Friday from an extraordinary review of recent death certificates. That process usually happens once a week and is reported on Tuesdays.

The report added 211 deaths in January, and 35 in December, bringing the total reported so far for those months to 1,231, an average of 24 deaths per day since the omicron variant was detected in the state.

The medical team is a 40-member unit from the U.S. Navy, a release from Gov. Mike Parson’s office stated.

“This team will help support our dedicated local medical professionals who work hard each day to care for Missourians,” Parson said in his release. “The best way Missourians can help aid our hospitals and health care workers is by considering vaccination to protect themselves and their families.”

The Christian Hospital military medical team was part of a federal approval deploying 220 medical personnel to eight states and the Navajo nation. They come from a pool of 1,000 military medical personnel added to the federal COVID-19 response mission on Dec. 31, a U.S. Army news release stated.

Each state and the Navajo nation were approved for one team except New York, where two teams will be deployed, the release stated.

The strain on Missouri’s hospital system is greater than at any previous time in the pandemic. The highest number of patients being treated on any single day prior to the omicron wave was 2,862 on Dec. 22, 2020. The highest number treated on any single day during the delta variant wave last summer was 2,463 on Aug. 19.

The number of patients in ICU beds Tuesday was 711, equal to the highest number of the pandemic, with 724 reported in preliminary data for Wednesday.

The state health department reported that 82 percent of all hospital beds in the state were filled Tuesday, and 83 percent of ICU beds. The lowest share of remaining beds were in St. Louis, Kansas City and northwest Missouri.

Christian Hospital has a vaccine clinic, a testing center and monoclonal antibody treatments for those who become infected, Stevens said. The extra help for his hospital will allow patients to be treated close to home and provide relief to the region, he said.

“It allows us to one, care for the patients in an effective and efficient manner, and if others need resources, perhaps we can take on some of those patients,” he said.

In the central part of the state, University of Missouri Health Care is trying to keep staffing up by requiring licensed professionals who work in non-direct care roles at the School of Medicine cover four 12-hour hospital shifts in the coming two weeks.

The single team is much less than the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force requested from the State Emergency Management Agency.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on the request earlier this week. The team that was approved is only a fraction of the total request, that included 72 positions for Mercy Hospital Jefferson, 22 for SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital in Lake Saint Louis and an unspecified number for the region’s other hospitals.

“With every day, we break records in admissions and hospitalizations,” Dr. Alex Garza, SSM Health chief community health officer and co-lead of the task force, said in a news release. “There is no single healthcare system that has not been impacted by this surge in patients with the entire region facing dire situations. Our hope is that our federal partners swiftly deploy resources to help our depleted and demoralized workforce.”

Read more in the Missouri Independent:

BJC-Christian Hospital in North St. Louis County

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