Some Oklahoma hospitals are opting to delay non-emergency procedures to cater to a growing number of COVID-19 patients.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported 1,102 people were hospitalized with the virus on Monday, a new state record.
Lance Frye, the state’s interim Commissioner of Health, said Monday that some hospitals have begun canceling or postponing certain appointments. He was supportive of hospitals making the internal decision to scale back on non-emergency procedures.
“Some of the hospitals are already starting to do that themselves, which is really what want to happen,” Frye said. “We want them to manage it.”
Patti Davis, the president of the Oklahoma Hospital Association, said last week that facilities around Oklahoma City are making adjustments.
“I happened to know that hospitals in Oklahoma County are going in and reducing the number of surgical procedures and changing staff schedules to accommodate for the rise in COVID-19 patients,” Davis said.
Neither Davis nor Frye named specific hospitals or systems that are postponing or suspending non-emergency procedures.
Non-emergency or elective procedures can often prevent more significant diseases from occurring later. Delaying these appointments, Davis said, could eventually escalate health issues for some patients and potentially hurt hospitals financially.
“Physicians will be making those calls, along with hospitals, to say what (procedure) waits and what happens now?” Davis said.
Frye fielded multiple questions about what the state is considering to contain the spread. He said he has not recommended Gov. Kevin Stitt to impose a statewide mask mandate, adding that compliance is better without a requirement.
“Do we have individuals in Oklahoma that believe in their freedom so much that they will do the opposite of what you tell them to do? My answer is, ‘Absolutely, we do have those people in Oklahoma,’” Frye said.
Frye said “nothing is off the table” in terms of finding methods to slow virus transmission. He said Stitt could impose a statewide restriction of elective surgeries or procedures, which would only expand hospital capacity and not necessarily slow the spread of the deadly virus.
“I don’t know when it’s going to happen or if it’s going to happen, but I can tell you that the governor is fully engaged in that and talking about all the potential actions that could be taken,” Frye said.
Democrats in the state’s House of Representatives released a statement calling on the governor to impose a statewide mask mandate.
Stitt will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. Tuesday to update the state’s COVID-19 response.