State health officials said Oklahoma County rose to a higher level of the state’s hospital surge plan Thursday after several days of higher COVID-19 patient ratios.
The county entered the third tier of the four-tier plan because COVID-19 patients filled more than 20 percent of all staffed hospital beds since Monday, according to OSDH reports. Oklahoma broke the 1,000 virus-positive patient mark across the state earlier this week, as well.
“What we've seen over the last several weeks is a rapid escalation of hospitalized patients,” Oklahoma Hospital Association president Patti Davis said.
Each hospital has an internal plan to accommodate for constraint capacity by expanding space or coordinating patient transfers.
Davis said hospital systems have increasingly cooperated to move patients to facilities where beds are available. Depending on the time and day, a facility may have to transfer a patient to another hospital because of ongoing limited capacity, even if it’s to a different hospital system.
“Hospitals have never worked together better than they are right now,” Davis said.
Governor Kevin Stitt has previously said he is able to issue an executive order to suspend non-emergency surgeries in order to open up hospital capacity. His office said in a statement Thursday they do not plan on doing so.
“Governor Stitt is not planning to issue an executive order to limit elective surgeries at this time because the hospitals have told us that step is not currently needed,” the governor’s office said in an email. “We are seeing great partnership between the lead physicians and the executives of hospitals in the Oklahoma City metro and will continue to work with them on what they need.”
Kerri Bayer, the chief nurse executive at INTEGRIS Health, said suspending even some procedures would help with capacity but could also have other detrimental effects by halting preventative care.
“We don’t want to have to not be able to diagnose someone’s cancer or do a procedure because we want to take care of all our community members,” Bayer said. “That is not a position that any of our clinicians, any of the healthcare providers want to be in.”
Davis confirmed that the OHA has not requested any executive order to halt non-emergency procedures. Davis also said there are facilities that are considering similar internal changes.
“I happened to know that hospitals in Oklahoma County are going in, reducing the number of surgical procedures and changing staff schedules to accommodate for the rise in COVID-19 patients,” Davis said.
Davis and Bayer both said hospitals are able to care for any patient. No one should avoid medical care.
In addition, Davis asked the public to wear masks and follow other CDC guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“Otherwise this is going to continue to spread in Oklahoma and put a real strain on our healthcare system,” Davis said.