Mercy Hospital

Mercy Hospital pictured from the intersection of Third Street and Highway 47 Wednesday, Sept. 16.

Mercy Hospital Washington is seeing an increase in hospitalizations due to COVID-19 and is preparing for overflow status.

“This is when the number of patients needing hospitalization outstrips our beds and our staffing, and when we are unable to transfer patients to other hospitals in St. Louis because they are full as well,” Mercy Hospital Washington President Eric Eoloff wrote in an email to The Missourian.

“We are nearing this tipping point,” he wrote.

As of Tuesday, the Franklin County Health Department reported a total of 22 COVID-19 hospitalizations of Franklin County residents between Mercy Hospital Washington and Missouri Baptist in Sullivan.

Eoloff said Mercy Hospital Washington has 26 patients currently hospitalized with COVID-19-related illnesses, and 20 are from Franklin County.

“They range in age between 28 and 89 years old,” Eoloff wrote. “Eleven of the 26 COVID patients are receiving intensive care.”

As the virus cases continue to rise, Mercy is anticipating more hospitalizations and deaths.

If the hospital goes into overflow status, it will utilize parts of the hospital other than its patient tower to care for overflow patients.

“We will implement a team-based nursing care model that combines nurses from our floors with nurses from other parts of our organization to care for overflow patients,” Eoloff wrote. “We will also involve Mercy virtual physicians and nurses in helping us care for these patients through the use of audio/visual technology that allows us to monitor patients continuously and notify local staff when there are immediate changes in a patient’s condition.”

The hospital will do its best to keep its surgery center functioning “at a normal or near-normal pace” if it reaches overflow status on COVID hospitalizations, Eoloff said.

“We will continue to test all patients for COVID before their surgeries and procedures, except for those who are in need of emergency surgery,” Eoloff wrote. “In those emergency cases, we presume the patients to be positive for COVID and our operating room staff wears personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep them safe from exposure.”

The health department reported 109 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, part of a total of 412 new virus cases reported since Friday, Nov. 6.

“We are concerned that the spread in the community has reached a point where contact tracing for COVID-19 is no longer effective because residents are gathering in groups indoors without masking or social distancing,” Eoloff wrote, adding the hope is residents use caution around the upcoming holidays when considering gathering for meals indoors.

“Until we get more cooperation around masking and social distancing, we are likely to see a continued increase in hospitalizations for COVID-19,” Eoloff wrote.

“We are on a pace for more COVID-19-related deaths this month than in prior months,” Eoloff wrote, referencing a Mercy Hospital Washington data chart, which tracks 14-day COVID-19 new case averages.