News Briefs

BJC cuts back on elective procedures as Missouri COVID-19 hospitalizations surge

By: - November 4, 2020 9:06 am

The deaths data, which the department calls “probable” COVID-19 fatalities, is being added eight months after the department began reporting antigen-identified infections in its daily report (image courtesy of CDC).

The surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations is forcing one of Missouri’s largest health care providers to cut back on elective procedures to preserve bed space.

St. Louis-based BJC HealthCare, in a statement issued Tuesday, said it would delay elective procedures that require inpatient or overnight stays at four hospitals. The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force on Tuesday reported 74 new inpatient admissions for COVID-19, the most since the task force began tracking admissions in April.

“To prepare for an expected surge in hospitalizations related to increasing community spread of COVID-19, BJC HealthCare is taking steps to manage bed capacity and support the well-being of our caregivers,” the provider stated.

Statewide, the Department of Health and Human Services reported Wednesday morning that there were 1,731 people being treated Tuesday for COVID-19 in Missouri hospitals, just off the peak of 1,775 set Monday. The seven-day average of hospitalizations increased to 1,672, the highest number of the pandemic.

Elective procedures that can safely be put off will be postponed starting Monday and continuing until at least Nov. 20 at four hospitals — Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Christian Hospital, Memorial Hospital Belleville and Missouri Baptist Medical Center.

Richard J. Liekweg, president and CEO of BJC, last Thursday warned Gov. Mike Parson and state health Director Randall Williams that the decision was coming. He said his system was treating 205 coronavirus patients as of Thursday morning, the most since April.

“We’re in the process right now of reassessing whether we’re going to need to start to cancel elective procedures in order to accommodate what we think is going to continue to be a gradual increase in COVID patients at a time when our staff, like everyone else, we’re just completely exhausted,” Liekweg said Thursday.

The Missouri Independent reported that the BJC decision was likely last week. A recording of the conference call between hospital CEOs, Parson and Williams showed health care providers across the state are feeling heavily stressed by COVID-19, calling on Parson to issue a statewide mask mandate.

Central Missouri is also seeing peak hospitalizations. The Columbia-Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services reported 105 inpatients Tuesday in Columbia hospitals for the second consecutive day. University of Missouri Health Care reported a new peak of 53 inpatients on Wednesday morning.

The state health department on Wednesday reported 2,599 new infections of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, the seventh consecutive day with more than 2,000 cases. There have been 12 days total with 2,000 or more cases since the first was reported Oct. 9.

The seven-day average of reported cases is at a new high of 2,627 cases per day.

The data Wednesday showed at least one new infection in 107 of 117 local health jurisdictions. 

There were 24 additional deaths reported Wednesday.

Missouri has confirmed 193,023 cases and 3,088 deaths from COVID-19 since the first was diagnosed in March.

The positive rate on COVID-19 tests in the state continued to increase, reaching 29.2 percent, the state health department dashboard shows. There are 15 local health jurisdictions where the positive rate on tests over the past seven days exceeds 50 percent and 86 of 117 where the positive rate exceeds the statewide average.

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Rudi Keller
Rudi Keller

Rudi Keller covers the state budget and the legislature. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, he spent 22 of his 32 years in journalism covering Missouri government and politics for the Columbia Daily Tribune, where he won awards for spot news and investigative reporting.