Staffing concerns at Southern Illinois Healthcare hospitals due to COVID-19

By Jason Flynn, Staff Reporter

Updated Nov. 10 with new numbers

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. 

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“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 again as cases of COVID-19 surge throughout Illinois.

The Illinois department of public health reported 10,573 new cases on November 9, and reported the statewide positivity rate at 12.4 percent.

On November 10 SIH, “had a record today of 50 people who are hospitalized in our COVID units,” Rice said. 

Jackson County is managing, “a record high,” 286 cases according to a press release from the Jackson County Health Department. 

Region 5 counties in Southern Illinois have been experiencing increases in positive test rates since October 1. 

“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 10 there have been 1,944 confirmed cases in Jackson County and 27 deaths.

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

Jackson County Public Health reported the last three weeks have been among the five worst 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. 

“As of midnight on 11/10, we’d performed 57,795 Covid tests across our system,” Rice said. 

Jackson County has been placed on the Illinois Department of Public Health’s warning list, and an additional IDPH mobile testing location will be open on November 11 at Trico Elementary School, and on November 12 at Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church. 

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.”

Staff reporter Jason Flynn can be reached at jflynn@dailyegyptian.com, or on Twitter @dejasonflynn

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