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Stillwater Medical Center opens overflow tents amid COVID surge, staff shortage

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Posted at 5:00 PM, Sep 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-03 20:37:58-04

STILLWATER, Okla.  — College football returns to Stillwater this weekend. Ahead of the game, Stillwater Mayor Will Joyce is declaring a state of emergency as the local hospital becomes overwhelmed with patients.

“It’s an emergency here at Stillwater Medical Center," Mayor Joyce said.

Finding a bed at the Stillwater Medical Center isn’t easy as the hospital battles a staff shortage and COVID surge.

Stillwater Medical Center Chief Nursing Officer Liz Michael said this surge is different than what they’ve seen before.

“We have patients that are getting sicker faster," Michael said. "We have more patients in-house than we’ve ever had from a COVID perspective. And we don’t have as many staff to care for those patients as we did then.”

The Oklahoma State Department of Health Disaster Response Team and Stillwater Fire Department helped construct the two overflow tents outside of the hospital emergency room. The goal is to have four patients per tent, but they can hold up to eight patients if needed. They will primarily use the tents for patients with minor emergencies, so they aren’t waiting for hours for help.

As frontline workers continue to take care of the sick, they’re struggling themselves.

“So many of them have the opinion of ‘I can’t do this again,'" Michael said. "But we’re fortunate to have a team that says, 'You know, we’re going to do the best that we can.' But they’re exhausted, they’re tired. And you know, it’s just getting harder and harder each day to get motivated to come back to work.”

Mayor Joyce said the hospital is no longer getting aid from the state like it did in the winter. So, he’s doing what he can to help it and the community.

“I’m not waiting for the state to show up," Joyce said. "We really appreciate the state department of health being here to help specifically with this. But we’re not expecting additional help from the state at this point. And so, we’re doing what we can locally to deal with the situation we have here.”

As thousands of fans prepare to attend the football game this weekend, Mayor Joyce is asking them to be careful. Wear a mask, wash your hands and distance as best as you can.

“We wanted to give people, very transparently tell them, this is what our situation is in Stillwater when it comes to medical care," Joyce said. "And we need you to be aware of that. And we need you to take heed of it. And do what you can to not add to that burden.”

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