Surge in virus hospitalizations makes transfers difficult

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ST. LOUIS (AP) — The current spike 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 told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch she could hear the desperation in the voices of doctors and nurses as they called the Mercy Transfer Center she oversees. But more and more, she has to refuse their transfer requests.

“What’s happening now, unfortunately, is that these patients aren’t getting the care they need and they’re not surviving in some cases,” Meehan said.


Virus hospitalizations have risen sharply in Missouri in recent weeks to 3,526 on Thursday, which is the most recent data available. That’s more than 700 more than last year’s peak.

This often means that patients often wait for a bed in emergency rooms for long periods of time. CEO Michael Calhoun said his Citizens Memorial Hospital in Bolivar, Mo., had to keep six to eight patients in its 12-bed emergency room over the past week.

“The facilities that are in the urban centers are so full, so we’re calling 70 to 100 different hospitals looking for a transfer, and we’re calling every day,” Calhoun said.

Often, it’s not even COVID-19 patients who need to be transferred. Instead, it’s the patients who need a neurologist or a gastroenterologist who end up waiting in the emergency room for a transfer that may not come until two or three days later.

“We’re good at stabilizing care while they wait,” he said, “but we’re concerned that the delay could cause a problem.”

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