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Shelby County Commission approves funding for Regional One trauma unit, health director lays out new vaccine efforts

$3.6 million approved for Regional One Health will allow nurses hired within weeks, reopening of 21 recently closed trauma beds.

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — Monday, the Shelby County Commission okayed an infusion of cash for Regional One Health's understaffed and overwhelmed trauma unit.

Those leading Regional One said COVID related nursing challenges - along with the normal summer surge of trauma patients - has the Memphis area's only trauma center stretched thin.

The total request of $11.6 million for Regional One wasn't approved Monday; instead the Shelby County Commission approved $3.6 million from its rainy day fund and will hold off on approving the additional $8 million until they get clarity on how best to use available federal funding.

Regional One Health President Dr. Reginald Coopwood said the closure of 21 trauma unit beds in the past year worsened ambulance offload times, put the trauma center in an unsafe condition and limited where to put patients in recovery or in the surgery receiving center. Commissioners will get more guidance on whether to approve the remaining money requested from the federal American Rescue Plan Act or from FEMA. Those will be considered in separate $4 million votes the Shelby County Commission's September 13th and September 27th meetings.

Also Monday, Shelby County Health Director Dr. Michelle Taylor said she's hopeful Monday's FDA full approval of the Pfizer vaccine for those 16 and older - along with an expected ruling this week on booster shots - will increase vaccine participation. Dr. Taylor said discussions are underway to make the Pipkin Building a dual vaccine and testing site.

"We know that a lot of our businesses in the community are going to a policy of either mandatory vaccination or mandatory testing weekly or biweekly and we also know that the infection rate in our community is going up, so we've had some talks," Dr. Taylor said.

The Shelby County Health Director also said she's hopeful local school districts will prioritize classroom distance and even suggested schools consider not having cafeteria gatherings for the time being to limit the potential COVID risks with children, especially those 12 and younger and not vaccine eligible.