Oklahoma Medical Leaders Describe Strain On Providers From Increase In COVID Hospitalizations

Aug 3, 2020

Hospital leaders say Oklahoma’s doctors and nurses are feeling the strain of the coronavirus pandemic after weeks of elevated hospitalizations.

"The constancy of preparedness and concern of coming to work in this environment takes a tremendous toll," said OU Medicine President and CEO Chuck Spicer in a Friday virtual town hall hosted by Rep. Kendra Horn (D-Okla).

Dr. Kersey Winfree, Vice President of Operations for SSM Health Saint Anthony, said there can be a mental health component to diagnoses when providers test positive for the virus, a not-uncommon occurence.

"They are people that have to go home for a couple weeks before they can come back to work,"
 Winfree said. "And that kind of actually exacerbates the toll it takes on our workforce.

Gary Raskob, a professor of public health at the University of Oklahoma, said more staffing would obviously help, but there’s no pool of available professionals who are ready for the demands of caring for COVID patients.

N"urses to manage a COVID patient in the intensive care [unit], that’s a high level of experience and training," Raskob said. "That’s not an entry-level nurse out of nursing school right off the bat."

Oklahoma has averaged more than 600 people in the hospital per day for the past three weeks. Last week, the state set a new record for COVID-19 hospitalizations, with 663 reported on Tuesday.