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Cherokee Nation suspending elective surgeries, activates COVID-19 surge plan

Posted at 3:42 PM, Aug 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-03 17:33:31-04

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Cherokee Nation Health Services reports a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations, with 90 percent of new COVID cases occurring among unvaccinated patients.

Due to that increase the Cherokee Nation is suspending elective surgeries and re-activating its COVID-19 surge plan for W.W. Hastings Hospital, which will increase in-patient room capacity by approximately 50 percent.

“The current swell in COVID-19 cases and related hospitalizations is driven by the spread of the highly contagiousDelta variant of the COVID-19virus according to our Cherokee Nation Health Services and Public Health teams, both of which are working around the clock to address this situation,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “The Delta variant accounts for over 80 percent of the tribe’s new COVID cases. A continued increase in cases could mean our health system is required to redirect health care staff from outlying health centers to assist in caring for hospitalized COVID patients at W.W. Hastings Hospital. Not only is COVID-19 putting added pressures and risks on our hospital, health centers and our amazing health care team tasked with treating COVID patients, but the resurgence once again threatens the overall well-being of the Cherokee Nation and the most vulnerable among us, including our Cherokee elders. We must commit ourselves to following medical science, facts, and compassion as we respond to the surge and do everything within our power to protect our Cherokee communities.”

Officials said the rising number of COVID-19 cases throughout the state and in neighboring areas also played a role in the re-activation of the tribal health system’s surge plan and temporary suspension of elective surgery.

“Transferring patients has become difficult due to little capacity in hospitals across the region,” said Cherokee Nation Health Services Executive Medical Director Dr. Roger Montgomery. “After the surge in December 2020, this is the last thing that we wanted. Re-activating the surge plan and temporarily suspending elective surgery will help save lives by ensuring that critical care efforts are maximized – but vaccination is our best weapon against this virus.”

COVID-19 vaccinations are available at all Cherokee Nation health center locations for anyone, regardless of tribal citizenship or residency, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday excluding holidays. Walk-ins are welcome, or appointments can be scheduled by calling 1-539-234-4099.

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