COVID-19 expands staffing concerns at Southern Illinois Healthcare hospitals

By Jason Flynn, Staff Reporter

COVID-19 has exacerbated a nationwide nursing shortage and has placed massive pressure on hospitals. 

SIH hospitals at one point had more than 100 staff members out due to exposure to COVID-19, Rosslind Rice, the communications coordinator for Southern Illinois Healthcare said. 

“We have to be very creative and diligent with how we staff when we have, especially, nurses and employees out that are specific to the COVID unit,” Rice said. 


Staffing concerns are mounting as Region 5 counties in Southern Illinois have been experiencing increases in positive tests for the past two weeks. 

“We would take an airplane full of nurses just like any hospital across the country right now,” Rice said. “Our teams are working very hard. They’re mobilized, they’re energized, they’re standing in the gap for each other, and showing extraordinary resilience, but it’s taking a toll.”

As of November 3 there have been 1,703 confirmed cases in Jackson County, and SIH has seen 318 persons hospitalized. 

“About 60% were admitted in September and October alone,” Rice said.

Jackson County Public Health reported the last two weeks have been two of the top four weeks for the county in terms of average cases per day, according to a press release. 

SIH conducts COVID-19 testing at two drive-thru locations and at its hospitals. 

“Since March [13th], between those two drive thru testing locations and our hospitals, we’ve conducted over 53,000 tests.” Rice said. “Last week, among the tests that we conducted and analyzed, we spiked to a 13 percent positivity rate. The week prior, we were at 11 percent.”


As of November 3 more than 30 people are hospitalized at SIH. 

Health officials are urging everyone to follow the guidelines set out for COVID-19, wearing a mask, hand washing, and social distancing, people may be relaxing as “COVID fatigue” sets in. 

“We believe people are really just exhausted,” Rice said.  “But we’re seeing the consequences of that in our positivity rates and in our in-patient hospitalizations for certain.”

Officials are also highly recommending everyone get vaccinated for the flu, as spikes in seasonal flu cases could drive additional capacity issues at hospitals around the country. 

“We do have a vaccine for the flu, anyone six months or older can get a flu shot,” Rice said. “If we start to see increased hospitalizations with flu and COVID it’s going to really place an extraordinary burden on all the hospitals and health care systems across the country.”

Jackson County has been placed on the Illinois Department of Public Health’s warning list. 

Staff reporter Jason Flynn can be reached at, or on Twitter @dejasonflynn

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