Missouri health system facing potential “Tripledemic” amid staffing challenges

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As winter looms in Missouri, health officials are expressing concern over the potential for three viruses to impact facilities.

This season has already seen an early spike in flu cases – and widespread impact among children from Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV.

The potential for another COVID spike to add to this situation has some medical experts worried about a so-called ‘tripledemic,’ straining the healthcare system.

Recent memory features the COVID surge in early 2020 filling up hospitals, but Dave Dillon – spokesperson for the Missouri Hospital Association – said while there are some similarities to that time there is one important difference. “Unlike where we were in the beginning portion of 2020 where hospitals didn’t have tools, but they had a lot of staff and a lot of space, right now we are limited on staff,” said Dillon. “A lot of individuals have left the profession, especially front-line caregivers like nurses.”

Data analysis of the nursing workforce shows that the total supply of Registered Nurses in the U.S. decreased by 100,000 in 2021, the largest drop ever recorded.

Dillon said this flu season is showing early intensity, being both very contagious and requiring a much higher degree of hospitalization than normally seen at this stage of the season.

He said that while RSV is impacting capacity at children’s hospitals, it’s not anticipated to impact adult bed availability. “Unless the influence of the other viruses creates a significant shortage of hospital bed availability,” said Dillon, “RSV is not likely to have a significant negative influence upon adult bed capacity for seniors who are more likely to be hit hard by RSV. “

Experts advocate keeping up to date on vaccinations for COVID and flu.