As COVID-19 Hospitalizations Rise, Oklahoma Updates Hospital Surge Plan

Tuesday, October 20th 2020, 10:13 pm
By: Barry Mangold


Gov. Kevin Stitt, flanked by state health leaders and hospital system CEO’s, announced updates to Oklahoma’s hospital surge plan Tuesday. 

The Oklahoma State Department of Health announced on the same day 870 COVID-19 patients are in the hospital, a new record.

“We've put this together very quickly because we're seeing escalating numbers,” Patti Davis, president of the Oklahoma Hospital Association said of the updates. 

The newest surge plan comes with a four-tier system based on the percentage of COVID-19 patients in a single facility and each of the state’s eight regions

If one hospital or region experiences a swell in COVID-19 patients, then the state will coordinate with hospitals to find locations to transfer the patient. 

“What we don’t’ want to see happen is one hospital has a lot of COVID, it’s very disruptive to normal operations, where the hospital across town may have very little,” Davis said. “This is an opportunity to equalize within a region.”

“The overall goal is still to keep the patient close to home within their region before we transfer outside the region,” Davis said. 

Tier one is defined as less than 15% of admitted patients are positive for COVID-19. A facility or region enters tier two if 15-19% of patients have the virus. Tier three is defined as 20-39% infected patients, and tier four is 40% and above. 

As hospitals approach the 15% threshold, Davis said facilities should implement internal surge plans to add beds as needed and bring on additional staffing. 

In tier two, the state can assist in bringing in additional staffing through the Medical Reserve Corps or other agencies, according to OSDH Surge Plan Advisor Matt Stacy. 

Certain surgeries should be “eliminated” in tier three, Davis said, and surgeries should be limited to only emergency cases in tier four. 

“Let’s hope we never get there,” Davis said. 

A copy of the updated surge plan was not available at the press conference on Tuesday. Davis said they plan on contacting hospital systems Wednesday to review the changes and finalize the plan. 

Jim Gebhart, CEO of Mercy Hospital, said they are still reviewing data to determine which tier each region is currently in. 

Stitt said he is confident in the abilities of Oklahoma’s hospital system and he still has the ability to suspend elective surgeries to “create tremendous capacity.” 

"We have the hospital beds, we have the capacity, we have the workers available to take care of COVID and non-COVID patients,” Stitt said. 

He also advised the public to be vigilant and cautious during family gatherings this Thanksgiving. 

“I want to remind Oklahomans to be really careful when you gather with your friends, your family, especially your older relatives,” Stitt said.