Gov. Mike Parson announced Wednesday that $30 million would be allocated to increase hospital staffing capacity in Missouri and provide antibody infusion sites across the state.
During the same news conference, he also announced that the acting director of the Department of Natural Resources, Dru Buntin, would now lead the department.
Parson’s funding announcement addresses a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases that the state has not seen since March. Recent cases have been driven by the highly contagious delta variant.
In the funding plan, $15 million will go toward establishing centers where patients get antibody treatment to help kick-start the body’s response to fight the virus.
The governor cited the success of an antibody infusion center in Springfield for the decision to expand across the state.
The Monoclonal Antibody Centralized Infusion Center in Springfield “has helped reduce the strain on hospitals by treating COVID-19 patients who otherwise would require treatment in a hospital setting,” according to a news release from the governor’s office.
Since it opened on July 23, the center has treated 319 patients.
Parson said he plans to establish five to eight similar sites and treat up to 2,000 patients per day across the state.
The other $15 million in the $30 million spending plan will contract additional health care staff that hospitals can request to help manage an increased patient load.
Parson said the state is facing a situation where “hospital capacity is limited due to staffing shortages, not a lack of bed capacity.”
As of Aug. 10, there were 13,353 inpatient beds across the state, and 84% were occupied, according to the Department of Health & Senior Services’ COVID-19 Healthcare portal. There were 2,448 ICU beds across the state, and 86% were occupied.
“It is our hope that this program will decrease hospital capacity strain caused by staffing shortages and decrease the need for future alternative care sites,” Parson said.
Along with these plans, Parson urged citizens to consider registering for a vaccine so that they could be rewarded through the MO VIP vaccine incentive program.
“As we work to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 and the delta strain, we are hopeful that Missourians will continue to get the facts and explore every opportunity available to get vaccinated,” Parson said.
Parson’s announcement about a new director of DNR gave credit to Buntin’s tenure with the department. Buntin has been the acting director since the death of the previous director, Carol S. Comer, in June.
“I come from five generations of Missourians,” Buntin said after the governor spoke. “I grew up in Moberly. I love this state and its people. I am looking forward to bringing to this role my experience in working with the department’s complex issues.”
Buntin also expressed his gratitude for Comer’s leadership.
“She gave me an opportunity to come back to Missouri as the deputy director of the Department of Natural Resources, and I will do everything in my power to honor her legacy and to lead this department in a way that best serves the state and our residents,” he said.