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CREVE COEUR, Mo. – St. Louis doctors are heading to Springfield, Missouri where physicians are overwhelmed in caring for COVID-19 patients at Mercy Springfield Hospital.

The Springfield hospital has had to open a sixth COVID ward to treat patients. They’re up to 140 patients as of Tuesday, a higher number of patients than they had in the fall. Most of these new COVID patients are not vaccinated. Approximately 70 of them are under 65 years of age.

“What they’re looking at it is a large number of ICU patients with COVID that are on ventilators, younger patients, sicker patients. So, those physicians have been working extra shifts, longer hours, without many breaks,” said Dr. Ashok Palagiri, Mercy critical care physician.

Doctors from Mercy facilities through the St. Louis area will be rotating in for at least the next six to eight weeks, providing relief for the Springfield doctors.

“They were relieved. Lots of gratitude. They feel like part of the family, I think that’s what we want them to feel, and they know it,” Palagiri said. “We’ve all worked together, we all know each other. It’s hard to watch your partner struggle. It’s part of our mission; part of our ministry is to help each other.”

The Mercy Health System says there will be no vacancies at their facilities in St. Louis as their doctors help out in Springfield. Officials say other Mercy doctors are offering to work on their time off to fill the open physician positions in the area.