ST. LOUIS (AP) — The current surge in virus cases in Missouri driven by the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant is straining hospital capacity and making it difficult to transfer patients to larger hospitals.
Kellie Meehan, who oversees the transfer center at Mercy Hospital, said she could hear the desperation in doctors’ and nurses’ voices when they called the center. But increasingly she has to turn down their transfer requests.
“What is happening now, unfortunately, is these patients are not getting the care they need, and they are not surviving in some cases,” Meehan said.
Virus hospitalizations have risen sharply across Missouri in recent weeks; the figure hit 3,526 on Thursday, which is the most recent data available. That’s more than 700 higher than last year’s peak.
That means many patients wait for a bed in emergency rooms for extended periods of time.
CEO Michael Calhoun said his Citizens Memorial Hospital in Bolivar, Mo., had had to keep six to eight patients in its 12-bed ER over the past week.
“The facilities that are in urban centers are so full, so we call 70 to 100 different hospitals looking for a transfer, and we are calling every day,” Calhoun said.
Often, it is not even COVID-19 patients who need to be transferred. Instead, it’s patients who need a neurologist or gastroenterologist who wind up waiting in the emergency room for a transfer that might not come until two or three days later.
“We’re good at stabilizing care while they wait,” he said, “but we do worry that delay could cause a problem.”