An Oklahoma City hospital dedicated to COVID-19 patients has begun taking patients without the virus as stress on health care workers has eased in recent months.
On January 5, the number of hospital patients with the virus peaked in Oklahoma at 1,994. After several weeks of decline, the state health department on Tuesday reported 457 hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
Dr. Julie Watson, Chief Medical Officer at Integris Health, said the decline is “remarkable and what we’ve all been hoping for, waiting for, praying for.”
Watson said the Integris Hospital on Portland Ave. began admitting general patients in the last 10 days, “which is phenomenal,” she said. In July, the facility was reopened only for patients suffering from the virus.
At the Portland Ave. facility and elsewhere, Integris officials morphed areas to expand capacity for COVID patients since the start of the pandemic. Watson said many of those changes have been rolled back.
Surgeries have resumed at the Portland Ave. facility and, “we’ve been able to reclaim an entire ICU on the Northwest Expressway campus,” Watson said. “We’ve been able to reverse those expansion plans and it’s given us that sense of all normalcy again, which we’ve all been looking for.”
Although demand for hospital space has eased, there are signs many are avoiding screening for other diseases.
Recently, Integris facilities have performed a fraction of cancer screenings compared to previous years.
“Eighty-five percent fewer breast cancer cases diagnosed just a year apart in the same time frame,” Watson said, adding the figures for colon and prostate cancer are similar.
“Those are three cancers that early detection absolutely changes survival,” she said. “So, we want people to know they need to come get the health care they may have been avoiding.”