From Todd Ahrens, President and CEO Hannibal Regional Healthcare System
Hospitals in Missouri and around the country are facing a new crisis. COVID-19 patient surges amid profound staffing shortages, fueled by the hyper-transmissible Omicron variant, are overwhelming healthcare providers. Hannibal Regional remains firmly committed to our community for all their healthcare needs, as we have done since the beginning of the pandemic nearly two years ago. Currently we are seeing significant increases in patient volumes, workforce shortages, with the highly transmissible Omicron variant significantly impacting on our ability to serve our community in the way we always have.
With this new reality, we have had to go on diversion a number of times over the last few weeks. What is diversion? Emergency Room (ER) Diversion happens when a hospital and its emergency room are overloaded to the point that they can no longer safely accommodate another patient. The hospital will declare itself on diversion status, meaning that they cannot accept new ambulance arrivals, until changes occur such that they can safely accommodate more patients. I want to share with our community that we do not make this decision lightly, and when we go on diversion we continually monitor the environment, bed usage, and labor, to try to shift away from diversion as early as we possibly can.
While other organizations in our region and state may make decisions to take care of a limited number of patients and cancel elective cases, Hannibal Regional is committed to supporting this community and to do so have increased our use of travel nurses, physicians and other resources in efforts to continue to serve our community. What does this mean to you? It means that currently we are experiencing high rates of emergency room, express care, and urgent care visits, resulting in longer than normal wait times especially in the ER. However – patients coming to the ER by personal vehicle are not turned away, and those with the highest acuity that are coming to our facility by ambulance are still being seen. Having said all this, as I look to the next few weeks, I plead with you to do everything you can to help us in this fight. We are optimistic that we are close to seeing the end of this surge. We are optimistic that in the months to come we will get back to a more normal environment, but until then, please understand we are doing everything in our power to best serve our community.
We will continue to be here, we will continue doing everything we possibly can to serve all your healthcare needs. But we ask for your understanding of the current situation we are in, and for you to do your part to help us weather this current COVID storm. Our team is exhausted - they have been working nonstop for you and your families and we need your help. How can you help? First, if you have not been vaccinated, I would encourage you to consider vaccination. And I would also ask you to consider this important fact: vaccines do work. They may not keep you from contracting the virus, but right now in our hospital, less than 5% of our COVID patients are fully vaccinated. This means that 95% of our COVID patients are unvaccinated. I urge you all to listen to the experts, understand the science, and know that vaccinations are the best way to fight this fight. Also, remember the basics of fighting this virus: wash your hands, wear a mask when in confined spaces, and monitor yourself for symptoms. If you are not symptomatic and simply need a Covid test because of an exposure or for upcoming travel we ask that you do this at home, at an express care or urgent care setting – but NOT in the emergency room. Please help us reduce the wait times, especially in the ER, by not utilizing this service for care which can appropriately be received in a doctor’s office or express care setting because it is not urgent or an emergency.
I share this update because all of us at Hannibal Regional care deeply for our community, we care about our team’s ability to properly serve you, and we care enough to want you to fully understand our current situation. Hannibal Regional has weathered the COVID storm better than many organizations, maintaining the ability to provide the highest level of care to our community and rarely having to make decisions that may limit care to our community. We have been able to do this because of the combined efforts of our team and our community – it has truly been a team effort. It has been a long fight, and it’s not over yet but with everyone’s continued support we will get there. Please be more vigilant than ever to help your friends, your family, and our community be healthy.
C. Todd Ahrens
President and CEO, Hannibal Regional Healthcare System