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Tulsa hospital leaders say hospitals feeling strain of COVID-19 due to nursing shortage

Tulsa hospital leaders say hospitals feeling strain of COVID-19 due to nursing shortage
Posted at 4:54 AM, Nov 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-19 12:02:47-05

TULSA, Okla. — Intensive Care Unit (ICU) bed space continue to be a concern across Green County. City health officials announced hospitals hit capacity last week.

READ MORE: City health officials say no ICU beds available in Tulsa

2 Works for You sat down with the President of Ascension St. Johns Mike McBride to determine the root of the problem.

McBride said the strain isn't necessarily coming from a lack of beds but a staffing shortage.

"When I say beds being full, it's not physical space; it's about having the staff to be able to take care of patients in beds," McBride said.

Before the pandemic, McBride said Tulsa hospitals were facing a nurse shortage. McBride explained how it's been eight months, and things have just gotten worse. He said they are working to hire more nurses, respiratory therapists, and nurse assistants.

"Our hospital and all the hospitals in the community have record-high levels of COVID patients," McBride said. "Now, for about the last week, it's making up about 15 percent of our total patient population."

The shortage in staff isn't just in Green Country; it's nation-wide. So, as they have tried to hire more staff, it's been tough.

"We are trying to do everything we can to help people find some balance in their lives, to provide them some rest," McBride said. "We have tried to hire people, we have tried to hire contact staff, but everyone in the county is looking for people, so we've not been very fruitful in our efforts,"

McBride said healthcare workers need our support more than ever right now.

"We talked a lot in the springtime about front line people being true heroes in our communities. Somehow that has fallen off, and I just want to remind our staff, you continue to be heroes, you're saving lives, I just implore that you take care of yourself so that you can continue," McBride said.

A spokesperson for Hillcrest HealthCare System sent us a statement confirming a lot of the same problems.

The number of COVID-positive patients treated at Hillcrest HealthCare System hospitals has increased, and we've had between 75-85 patients per day.

Bed availability and capacity are constantly changing and fluid. Currently, ICU bed capacity at Hillcrest HealthCare System hospitals averages between 95-98 percent.This includes COVID and non-COVID cases. We continue to meet daily to discuss and plan for bed availability, available PPE and staffing.

Our local supply chain teams work to ensure our teams have the necessary PPE needed for their jobs. Presently we have no concerns about our current supply.

There is a nursing shortage across the nation, and Oklahoma is not immune. We much appreciate our health care workers and they deserve our thanks and consideration. We encourage the community to do their part to help lessen the strain on health systems: please wear masks, practice social distancing, and avoid large gatherings.
Hillcrest HealthCare System

If you're in emergent need, McBride urges that you still visit hospitals emergency rooms; they will do all they can to help you.

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