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Officials Moving on from Surge Contracts as Hospitalizations Hit Record in Oklahoma

KWGS News file photo

This week, more than 700 Oklahomans were hospitalized for COVID-19 on a single day for the first time, and state officials acknowledge there’s a growing strain on health care facilities and providers.

The state hit a high of 738 hospitalizations Tuesday night. That number slipped to 697 in Wednesday night's executive order report.

The state’s contract with several Oklahoma City and Tulsa metro area hospitals for an additional 245 beds expired two weeks ago. Oklahoma National Guard Lieutenant Colonel Matt Stacy, who coordinated the state’s hospital surge plan, said at a news conference on Tuesday less than one-third of those beds were ever used at a time earlier in the pandemic.

So, renewing the contracts as they were is not what officials are considering.

"I think now we have seven months of data and a very good state epidemiologist helping us forecast that and we’re working with the hospitals to forecast that as well. And so, we’re looking at deploying that money that is an expiring asset. That money expires at the end of the year — that federal CARES money — and we’re looking at trying to deploy that into something that will last beyond the New Year’s holiday," Stacy said.

Stacy said hospitals have their own internal surge plans to handle an influx of COVID patients, including temporarily halting elective surgeries.

"Right now, we’re at a situation where we’re trying to aid the hospitals in transferring patients and their patient load versus directing patients. Because at the point that the government gets in and makes patient care decisions, I think that’s contrary to the best interest of Oklahomans," Stacy said.

OU Chief COVID Officer Dr. Dale Bratzler said last week a few Oklahoma City patients were transferred to Tulsa because of a shortage of ICU beds.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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