Health Officials Consider Changes To Hospital Surge Plan As Virus Puts More Patients In ICU


Friday, October 16th 2020, 9:00 pm
By: Barry Mangold


OKLAHOMA CITY -

Oklahoma health officials are working to make adjustments to the state’s hospital surge plan. This week, the Oklahoma State Department of Health reported more than 790 hospitalizations linked to COVID-19.

According to a spokesperson for Gov. Kevin Stitt, the health department is meeting with hospitals to make changes to the plan. An OSDH spokesperson did not respond to a request for more detail on Friday. 

The OSDH reported Friday that 792 people are hospitalized due to COVID-19, 301 of which are in intensive care units. On Thursday, the state reported an all-time high of 793 hospitalizations.

Oklahoma City-area hospitals have made their own adjustments in response to constraints in space and staffing. 

INTEGRIS Health reopened its Portland Ave. campus in July exclusively for COVID-19 patient overflow. The facility’s 44 beds have been near or at capacity for months, according to INTEGRIS spokesperson Brooke Cayot.

Current staffing levels are keeping the health system from expanding the number of beds at the Portland Ave. campus. 

Cavot said INTEGRIS leadership met Friday to discuss, in part, the system’s surge plan.

Related: Oklahoma Announces Changes To Hospital Surge Plan For COVID-19 

Stillwater Medical Center has more than 20 open nursing positions. Shyla Eggers, Director of Public Relations for the system, said they expect to post additional openings next week. 

Eggers said staff have reopened patient rooms that were previously closed to allow for larger capacity, but staffing remains a significant challenge. 

In the past month, Eggers said SMC has filled all intensive care unit beds roughly four times. 

The OU Medical Center Adult Patient Tower is now accepting COVID-19 patients. 

“Bed capacity is directly related to staffing availability,” OU Medicine CEO and President Chuck Spicer said in a statement. “We are proactively coordinating with our partners in government and the private sector and will continue to make all efforts to take care of patients in our region.” 

Caryl James, the chief nursing officer for Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City, said roughly 40 percent of their ICU patients are COVID-19 positive. Moving patients to facilities with space, she said, has been crucial. 

“Maybe our OKC (hospital) does not have a bed available, but our Ada campus does, and so we will work with that campus to transfer patients there,” James said. 

At SSM St. Anthony, spokesperson Kate Cunningham said staff have made adjustments to make room, and additional help has been brought aboard.

“We have had occasion to engage contract employees – something we have cause to do from time to time for a number of different reasons – and will continue to take advantage of whatever resources are available to deliver the most qualified, best possible care for our patients at every opportunity,” Cunningham said. 

Depending on the facility, patients may experience delays in treatment because of the increased hospital demand, according to Oklahoma State Medical Association president Dr. George Monks.

“Beds are tight. There's no slack in the system,” Dr. Monks said. “Physicians are having to hold patients at times in the emergency room, waiting for a bed to open up upstairs. 

“Some hospitals, just on their own, are starting to trim back surgeries so they can preserve bed space. All of this is occurring right before flu season where we’re going to have to have some beds for flu patients.”