The partnership with the health care company is expected to bring 760 staff, opening nearly 600 additional hospital beds, to help the state combat the pandemic. Gov. Mike Parson, in announcing the partnership, said staffing was “one of the biggest challenges” Missouri hospitals are facing.
“To further assist and prepare for a potential surge this winter, the state, and multiple geographically dispersed hospitals will be partnering with a company called Vizient to bring in additional staff and further expand capacity,” Parson said at a press conference Wednesday evening.
It is not yet clear which hospitals will be a part of the partnership.
“Staffing is one of the biggest challenges facing our hospitals right now,” Parson said. “We have plenty of hospital beds available.”
The staff coming to the state would include registered nurses, respiratory therapists, and certified nurse assistants. It’s not yet clear from what other states these staff members will come.
The Governor’s Office described Vizient, Inc. as “the nation’s leading health care performance improvement company” and pointed to the company’s work in Arizona as an indication that the partnership would provide meaningful support for hospitals and Missourians.
“The state’s new partnership with Vizient will allow rapid deployment of staff to support hospital capacity in all regions of the state,” Missouri Hospital Association President and CEO Herb Kuhn said. “In the days and weeks ahead, these agency staff workers will provide essential support to our hospitals.”
The planned partnership will last 12 weeks after which the deal would be re-evaluated.
“The vaccine is coming and that is going to be a factor,” Parson said.
He also noted the holiday season would invite more uncertainty into the current pandemic and once again encouraged Missourians to take personal responsibility for their actions to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. He noted that his policy has not changed on a statewide mask mandate — although some local counties and municipalities do have requirements in place.
The exact cost of the partnership is unknown, but the state will pay the first phase using CARES Act funding, which is set to expire on Dec. 31. The hospitals included in the deal would then fund the remainder of the partnership.
“Whatever the cost is, this is about saving people’s lives,” Parson said.
The governor said the amount of incoming hospital staff — and when they actually come into the state — will affect the overall cost. He also predicted another package of relief will come from Washington, D.C., before the end of the year.
Just hours before the announcement, the state Senate passed the $1.2 billion COVID-related supplemental budget to the governor for final approval after a delay caused by COVID-19 infections among members and staff. He is expected to sign the legislation in the coming days.