Medical help headed to Missouri at taxpayer expense; prevention mandate still resisted

Regional News

ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Three weeks ago, Dr. Alex Garza pleaded with Missouri’s governor to mandate masks and slow the spread of COVID-19. Governor Mike Parson said no and instead is spending your tax dollars to bring in more medical help.

Governor Parson’s office told FOX 2 he’s never strayed from telling people to wear masks – he’s just not ordering it – partly because of questions on how it would be enforced.

Dr. Garza, head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, said mandates can work without enforcement.

“It imparts upon the citizens, ‘This is now that important that we’re mandating,'” he said. “Now we’re paying for all of those cases and all of those hospitalizations and I would say it’s much more expensive on the back end as well.”

Dr. Garza’s hospital system, SSM Health, will submit its request to state health officials Friday for its share of the Vizient hospital aid program. 

Vizient is an Irving, Texas-based company that will deploy 760 medical staff to the Show Me State, including registered nurses and respiratory therapists.

“They would look very much like any other staffer and, from a purely hospital standpoint, they would need all the credentials of that hospital working on the front lines,” Missouri Hospital Association Spokesperson Dave Dillon said. “Just to get through the doors, in some cases, you have to have the badging for that specific hospital.”

Dillon said the new staff will not be local.

“One of the specific things in the contract is they cannot be from Missouri. What we don’t want to have happen is that someone decides that working with a staffing agency is more lucrative and walks out one door and walks back in the other.”

Space is not an issue at the moment. Beds are available.

State Senator Andrew Koenig used those numbers Tuesday when arguing his case against closing St. Louis County restaurants.

“Right now in the St. Louis region we have 18 percent ICU beds and 46 percent of total hospital beds,” he said.

Garza said hospital capacity is determined by your workforce and not necessarily the number of beds.

“If you have 10 buses but you only have three bus drivers, then you really only have three buses,” he said. “Buses are not going to drive themselves – at least not yet.”

That’s why Parson is spending tax dollars to pay for more help.

The governor’s office issued the following statement to FOX 2:

Governor Mike Parson has led with a balanced approach since day one of this pandemic and will continue to do so. He and his administration monitor data and work closely with the Missouri Hospital Association and our panel of infectious disease doctors to monitor the statewide health care system and capacity. Our entire administration is here to support our health care workers and the health care delivery system. Missouri’s COVID-19 numbers are up and continue to increase. It is imperative that Missourians take personal responsibility and social distance, wear a mask, practice personal hygiene, and limit their gatherings.

Governor Parson has been very clear and consistent about his support for local control. Every individual MUST take action to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

This deal is so new we don’t yet know what it will cost. We also don’t yet know where these medical professionals will come from. The Missouri Hospital Association said that’s why it was important to get this deal done quickly so that Missouri secures its place in line to get help as it’s expected other states will soon announce similar deals.

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