Two of Oklahoma City’s largest health systems will receive help from federal medical teams next month as record numbers of COVID patients exacerbate Oklahoma hospitals.
Military personnel will arrive in Oklahoma City in early February to assist Integris Health and OU Health operations in early February, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
A 25-person Army medical team will assist OU Health, and two 45-person Air Force teams will work with Integris Health. The teams are made up of doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and technicians, according to the Oklahoma State Hospital Association.
“They have expanded their staff to patient ratios as far as it can be done safely, some are halting or postponing elective and non-essential procedures, and steps are being taken to move and/or discharge less critically ill patients as well. quickly as possible,” OSDH spokeswoman Erica Rankin-Riley said. “The OSDH helped facilitate the hospital’s request for HHS resources, including special medical augmentation teams.”
Spokespersons for Integris Health and OU Health told News 9 that team assignments and duties have yet to be determined.
LaWanna Halstead, vice president of the OHA, said the additional aid will provide much-needed flexibility to hospitals facing significant staffing shortages caused in part by COVID-19 infections. She said the largest health systems in the state can have more than 200 absent employees.
“It’s only going to mitigate a little, but whatever we can get will be fabulous,” Halstead said. “If we can help relieve the larger facilities, then it’s possible we can bring some people who need a higher level of care into the smaller facilities.”
On Friday, the OSDH reported a record number of hospitalized patients with the virus. The three-day average rose to 2,077 patients on Friday, including 98 pediatric patients. The department also reported 114,510 active cases and 8,655 new cases.
Short-staffed hospitals and record patient numbers have led to burnout among medical providers, said Mary Clarke, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association.
Clarke is hopeful the number of daily COVID-19 cases will begin to decline, however, she said hospitalizations caused by the virus will likely continue to rise for 2-3 days after the peak in case counts.
“We are going to overwhelm the system if there is no additional support and if there is no leadership to help people explain how we are preventing this from happening. Prevention, as a family physician, is always key,” Clarke said.