Hospital staffs stretched thin amid COVID-19 surge, staffing shortages

Michelle Woodward St. Mary's nurse COVID-19
Posted at 10:25 PM, Nov 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-19 23:25:56-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As hospitals around the Kansas City approach capacity with COVID-19 cases surging, staffs are stretched thin.

On top of a surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitals have been hit with the double whammy of staffing shortages as workers also get sick with community spread uncontrolled.

Top health experts from the region — including University of Kansas Health System Chief Medical Officer Dr. Steven Stites and Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department Director Dr. Rex Archer — have both stressed that hospitals are not to blame for COVID-19 spread, because they follow strict layers of infection prevention control.

Nonetheless, Michelle Woodward, a registered nurse at St. Mary's Medical Center in Blue Springs, said the staffing shortages are being felt in the hospital.

"We need more nurses, and we have a whole lot of people working more overtime than what we have in the past," she said.

Woodward said the daily routine of caring for COVID-19 patients also is taking its toll.

"You see these people and they get really, really sick and nothing you can do is helping them," Woodward said. "It does get stressful, especially when you see it day after day after day."

Stites said when it comes to filling staffing gaps, it will soon become more challenging to bring in hospital workers from other parts of the country. He said early during the the pandemic, it was easier to get travel nurses because only certain areas of the country, especially New York, were experiencing major outbreaks.

"Now, so much of the Midwest is affected, you're seeing it in New York again, you're seeing it on the coast, California has rising levels, Washington State has rising levels," Stites said. "This time around, the whole country is being affected. As a result, traveling nurses or temps are all being pulled in many different directions."

Woodward is asking community members to cancel their large Thanksgiving gatherings to keep their loved ones safe and out of the hospital.

"It’s definitely very serious right now, and I wish people would not get into large groups like they were doing," Woodward said. "We are almost maxed out and people, when they gather around, they are going to get each other sick. Even if you do feel good, it doesn’t mean you can’t spread it to other people."

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