SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — While downstate hospitals admit record numbers of patients sick with Coronavirus, administrators fear they could run short on hospital staff before they run out of bed space for patients.
“I’m more limited by staff than I am physical rooms,” Memorial Health System Hospital Group President Chuck Callahan said on Monday. “Just like the presence of COVID in the community is making other people sick, some of those people are my staff.”
“If I have nursing staff and front end staff who get sick and have to be sidelined for 14 days, that limits my ability to fully utilize all the rooms and the beds physically that I have,” he said.
Memorial Health System manages five hospitals in the region, including locations in Springfield, Taylorville, Lincoln, Jacksonville and Decatur.
Those five locations combined have 300 staff in home isolation due to COVID-19 infection or exposure. Callahan says only 10% of those cases were exposed to Coronavirus inside the hospital.
Nurses at Decatur Memorial Hospital told WCIA they were holding COVID-19 patients in the emergency room due to an influx of sick patients in recent days.
Callahan described the bed backlog as a “flow issue.”
“When you decide to make the admission of a patient, you may be anticipating certain discharges in your inpatient room,” he said. “So there may be a delay as that person is appropriately discharged and the room sanitized.”
In the past, when individual hospitals ran low on staffing resources, they could hire traveling nurses to come in and help reduce the workload, however Callahan says those nurses are in “very short supply because everybody in the country is drawing on them.”
Callahan urged the public to take proper precautions, reduce the size of their private gatherings, wear a mask in public, and wash their hands regularly, in order to help reduce the risk of community spread infecting medical staff at a time when they are needed most.