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'We Just Want Help To Come In The Quickest Way': Hospitals Seek Relief Amid COVID Surge

Whitney Bryen, Oklahoma Watch
According to Aug. 11 data from the Department of Health and Human Services, 320 COVID ICU beds are in use in Oklahoma out of 827 staffed beds. That’s almost 40% of beds. Nationally COVID ICU bed use is at 22%. ";

As COVID surges, hospitals are attempting to organize.

Dr. Jennifer Clark said today on Oklahoma State University’s Project ECHO update for healthcare providers that the problem for some hospitals is using beds absent an order from Governor Kevin Stitt giving them more flexibility.

“Hospitals are struggling right now. Without an executive order, they are scrambling to use their license beds in an effective way.”

Clark specified that the problem is ICU beds.

"ICU beds have a certain type of licensing based on the equipment that surrounds them, and that is the piece that is causing consternation for my colleagues in the hospital because the flexibility of shifting a surgical bed to an ICU is not possible because it’s not under their license. I know if you need help please talk to the Oklahoma Hospital Association.”

OHA Vice President LaWanna Halstead recently said since an emergency exists at the federal level with the Department of Health and Human Services, hospitals can shift beds to fit their needs.

A spokesperson for OHA said today that is still the case, but there has been some confusion about the process, and for clarification hospitals should call OHA.

Reordering beds is not the only thing a state emergency order would help hospitals with, though.

“There are a number of areas in which hospitals need state regulatory relief,” Susie Wallace, Director of Communications for OHA wrote in an email to KWGS today.  

Wallace included a statement from OHA President Patti Davis saying hospitals “need state regulatory flexibility to create additional bed capacity such as repurposing space within a hospital, occupational licensure flexibility, and enabling the insurance department to instruct insurance companies to waive or expedite pre-authorization for post-acute care.”

OHA isn’t specifically calling for an emergency order, but rather whatever action will help hospitals operate smoothly.

“Regulatory relief is needed and whether that comes simply from state agency head action or an executive order, we  just want the help to come in the quickest way possible,” wrote Wallace.