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Doctor warns of staff shortage as COVID-19 hospitalizations rise

Posted at 10:54 PM, Jul 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-25 00:07:50-04

TULSA, Okla. — Coronavirus hospitalizations continue to increase in Green Country. And now, hospitals are worried about something other than the number of open beds.

A recent New York Times article maps out hot spots across the nation where people are being hospitalized for COVID-19. Two of those locations are Tulsa and Oklahoma City. According to the article, hospitalizations in Tulsa increased 27 percent in the past two weeks. It’s not as bad as Oklahoma City, which has seen a 47 percent increase.

Dr. Bruce Dart with the Tulsa Health Department said Thursday that hospitals in Tulsa are at about 80 percent capacity.

Dr. George Monks, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association said when it comes to the ICU, the number of open beds can vary.

“Those beds can change hourly," Dr. Monks said. "And so a hospital, an ICU, can be completely full and then in the next hour there may be a bed that opens up.”

Dr. Monks said cases we’re seeing in hospitals now started about two or three weeks ago and that the biggest worry is having enough nurses and physicians to take care of patients. He said there was already a staffing shortage before the pandemic. And now, hospitals are doing their best to work with the staff they have.

“What we’re seeing is really brave work from the nurses and the physicians, working longer hours, taking extra shifts in order to try to create more capacity in the hospitals," he said.

The CDC issued a new forecast predicting a rise in coronavirus deaths in Oklahoma over the next several weeks. Hospitals now bracing for more patients.

“We need the public’s help," Dr. Monks said. "We need everyone to wear a face mask, maintain social distancing, wash your hands frequently because the system is under stress, there’s not much slack left.”

Dr. Monks said it could take a few weeks before we see if there’s a change in cases and hospitalizations from the mask mandate.

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