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COVID cases put pressure on Tulsa area hospitals, wait times alarm some patients

Posted at 6:39 PM, Aug 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-05 12:16:41-04

TULSA, Okla. — With the COVID surge, Tulsa area hospitals are overloaded while also tending to non-COVID needs. That has some patients unhappy with the speed of service.

The team at Tulsa ER & Hospital is trying to take some of the load off the bigger area hospitals.

“I think everybody in Tulsa and surrounding areas have been seeing a lot of maxed capacity and increased flow,” said Shelley Prince, nurse practitioner at Tulsa ER & Hospital.

Pandemic or not, they say hospital wait times will always vary, but Gesille Bagby and her husband are not used to waiting seven hours.

“We were waiting so long,” she said.

They arrived at Ascension St. John by ambulance late Tuesday afternoon.

“We got here at three. I started getting agitated around nine o’clock,” said Gesille.

The couple said they had to wait in a hallway by a trash room. Because of the federal emergency declaration, Oklahoma hospitals are allowed to create additional bed spaces and redesignate hospital beds.

After asking about the long wait, Gesille says she was told that hospital staff are busy with COVID patients.

“Waiting on patients to be dismissed,” she remembered them saying.

However, a seven-hour wait is not all that unusual for some hospitals. ProPublica’s pre-pandemic statistics show the average ER Oklahoma wait times ranged from one to seven hours.

According to, the current ER wait for the Tulsa area is about two to three hours.

Some hospitals are working with staffing agencies to boost the workforce and are even providing overtime incentives. They also continue to discharge patients as fast as possible.

The scenario changes at Tulsa ER & Hospital. Staff there are accepting appointments and walk-in visits. The wait for care is typically no longer than 10 minutes.

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