Shelby County Commission (Photo: Shelbycountyyn.gov)
On Monday, the Shelby County Commission approved $3.6 million in funds for Regional One Health Medical Center in order to increase the facility’s ability to provide emergency medical treatment.
Regional One has closed 21 beds over the last year due to staffing shortages, said Reginald Coopwood, Regional One’s president and CEO.
Because the hospital lacks sufficient staff to maintain the beds, it has been forced to decrease capacity to admit patients, creating a domino effect in the capacity of the hospital to provide emergency and trauma services to severely injured patients.
Shelby County has also had an increase in gun violence and vehicle accidents, and Regional One’s limited capacity is leading emergency medical services to take patients to other medical centers that don’t have the capability to handle trauma.
Some hospitals have requested assistance from the Tennessee National Guard to make up for the staffing shortages, such as Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation and Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare.
In order to offset staffing shortages, Regional One offered premium pay to hire outside nurses, which has increased their budget to $14.4 million to staff 21 beds for 12 months.
County commissioners agreed to offset the budget by awarding Regional One $3.6 million but plan to award another $8 million throughout September, totalling $11.6 million.
Regional One has it’s roots as Tennessee oldest hospital, chartered in 1829, and it has evolved significantly in its 180-year history. In 1999, then-Regional Medical Center at Memphis agreed to manage six health department primary care clinics and four hospital-owned community-based clinics, working with the Shelby County Health Department.
Shelby County commissioners recently voted to reinstate a mask mandate in Shelby County to quell the rising tide of COVID-19 hospitalizations threatening to capsize the industry. While the mask mandate may have slowed the spread, rising COVID cases still continue to leave hospitals unable to meet demand.
As of Saturday there were 1,118 new COVID cases in Shelby County and 1,815 total deaths, said Michelle Taylor, the Shelby County Health Department director. Reported cases per seven day rolling average on Saturday was 733, and on Sunday 785. Vaccinations have increased to 48.3% of the population with at least one vaccination.
When asked what hospital capacity would look like in the fall, Taylor said infection rates will continue to rise even with a mask mandate.
Hospitals are still struggling, said Taylor, because they are dealing with the combined issues of rising infections and staff shortages.
“This has become an 18-month marathon that has no end in sight currently if we don’t start to put mitigation things in places,” she said.
“Everybody is on the same page. We want this to end and we want to do everything we can to make sure this ends, but right now our hospitals are still struggling,” she added.
The Shelby County Health Department does not have it’s COVID vaccination program yet, but “our plan is in the final stages of approval,” said Taylor.
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