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Grove Doctor Shares Experience Of COVID's Impact On Smaller Hospitals

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Facebook / Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians
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Dr. Sam Ratermann is medical director of the hospitalist program at INTEGRIS Grove Hospital, as well as president-elect of the Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians.

A Grove doctor used a virtual COVID-19 press conference to share his personal experience with the challenges and strains placed upon his hospital by the pandemic. 

"Smaller hospitals like mine can provide a tremendous amount of care, but we have limits," said Dr. Sam Ratermann, medical director of the hospitalist program at INTEGRIS Grove Hospital and president-elect of the Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians, at a Tuesday online event organized by the Healthier Oklahoma Coalition.

Ratermann said the normal practice of transfering patients to larger hospitals in metropolitan areas for higher levels of care has been "nearly impossible" as those hospitals have also filled, and, in some cases, hospitals smaller than his as far as 300 miles away request to transfer COVID-19 patients to them. 

"I just represent one small hospital, but I can tell you my ICU has been completely full, staffed out, for weeks, if not months," Ratermann said.

"Part of my day is playing resource manager. Which patient still needs that ICU level of care? Which one can we maybe bring out of the ICU so we can fit another one in? It's like playing puzzle pieces all day to get people the care that they need, and, at times, you can't."

Ratermann said recently a patient who went into cardiac arrest at home was brought in and resuscitated, but then was unable to receive immediate attention.

"She needed specialty-level care, and there wasn't a single hospital that could provide it. She sat in the ER, I think, for 16, 17, 18 hours in critical condition, waiting for care. Now, she received care at the facility she was at, but not the level that she needed," Ratermann said. "I had a patient just over the holiday weekend who needed higher level of care. The closest bed that I could get them to was in Kansas City."

Ratermann, who testified last month before the Grove City Council in favor of a mandatory mask ordinance which went on to pass, said the pandemic has been long, difficult, and at times demoralizing.

"What's heartbreaking is to watch patients suffer and die, and watch my exhausted colleagues try and catch their breath under their facemasks and fogged face shields, only to see people walk around in the community not wearing masks and doing their part," Ratermann said. 

"Now, I know a lot of these people that we all see at the store, they don't have any ill will. They're not trying to hurt anybody. In fact, I don't think many of these people would hurt a fly," Ratermann said. "But they're unknowingly potentially spreading this virus further. So we're begging Oklahomans to do their part to help us help you.

"COVID can stop with you if we all do our part," he said.

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.
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