by Mary Wilson
The impact of Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is sweeping the nation, and has made its way close to home, as it was discovered that Grandview’s own Representative Joe Runions has been in the hospital after testing positive for the virus. Runions, who serves Missouri’s District 37, is the first state elected official to be hospitalized with COVID-19.
“I feel a duty to share my experience as I begin the long recovery from this illness and urge you to do everything within your power to prevent Missouri’s hospitals and medical staff from becoming overwhelmed during this pandemic,” said Runions in a letter he wrote to Governor Mike Parson on Sunday, March 22, following a phone conversation they had earlier that day.
Runions stated that a top concern of his doctors at St. Joseph Medical Center in Kansas City is the possibility that they will run out of vital supplies, especially personal protective equipment.
“Since I am in isolation, every time a doctor or nurse comes in to check on me, they must put on all manner of gear to protect themselves,” Runions said. “However, stocks of that equipment are rapidly running low, and doctors are deeply concerned about whether those stocks will be replenished fast enough to keep up with demand. Our hospitals need these supplies.”
He has had a first-hand account of how much of these supplies are being used to treat patients with COVID-19, saying that he believes doctors and hospital staff are using 20 sets of supplies on him daily. He urged Governor Parson to speed up the process of getting supplies directly to hospitals across the state.
“My doctors also tell me there still aren’t enough testing kits,” said Runions. “The quicker patients get tested, the quicker they can get the proper treatment. Please, do whatever is necessary to expedite the availability of testing kits. I have no doubt expanded testing will save lives.”
Runions remains hospitalized at St. Joseph’s, and is getting better, but understands that it will be a long recovery. Following news of Runions’ diagnosis, Jackson County Executive Frank White, Jr. released an emergency funding proposal to combat the toll of COVID-19 in the county. White named the proposal in honor of Runions, calling for $10 million in the Representative Joe Runions Act.
The proposed funding is focused on providing essential support to the county’s safety-net health care providers, Truman Medical Centers and the county’s Health Department, as well as first responders and area in-home food delivery agencies. If approved by the County Legislature, the Runions Act would make millions of dollars immediately available to frontline providers to purchase equipment, tests and resources they need to keep the community safe.
“While my team’s work on this plan started prior to hearing the unfortunate news about Rep. Runions’ diagnosis, I thought it was fitting to honor him in this way as soon as I heard Joe’s powerful call to action,” said White. “At a time of what I imagine must be great pain, fear and uncertainty for Joe and his family, he showed not only why he is such a great leader, but also what we are all capable of in these difficult times. From his hospital bed, still fighting this terrible disease, he called on us to step up and do everything we can to ensure that those we rely on to take care of us have the tools and resources they need to wage this war. That is exactly what the Runions Act does and that is exactly what I will continue to do for Joe and everyone else in our community.”
The Runions Act would provide $3 million to Truman Medical Centers to assist the hospital with the purchasing of needed medical equipment, such as ventilators or personal protective equipment, and increase their testing capacity and bed capacity. The Jackson County Health Department would receive $1 million to maximize their partnership with other community health care providers to increase testing, contact tracing and care for uninsured. The Act would also provide $2 million to go toward temporary sheltering and increased hospital capacity in the county.
For area food agencies to provide meal delivery to those who are unable or it is unsafe for them to leave their homes, The Runions Act would provide $1.5 million for agencies to hire unemployed service employees, or utilize restaurants negatively impacted by the virus to assist in the preparation or delivery of food. Finally, $1.5 million will be allotted for first responders, law enforcement and detention facilities to provide personal protective equipment, and additional supplies and staff.
“Without thinking twice, the dedicated providers at Truman Medical Centers jumped into gear to provide quality, compassionate care for our community,” said Charlie Shields, President and CEO of Truman Medical Centers. “We greatly appreciate this financial support from Jackson County. Together, TMC and Jackson County will heal, protect and save lives.”
Effective as of Tuesday, March 24, Jackson County is requiring people to stay at home except for essential needs, in order to ensure the maximum number of people self-isolate in their places of residence. The order is in effect until at least April 24, and may be extended depending on recommendations from public health officials.