OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Hospitals across the state are bursting at the seams with patients as the highly contagious omicron variant surges.

This surge in cases has a greater impact on Oklahoma’s hospitals this time around, as staffing has become a major issue. Oklahoma City metro hospital leaders are pleading with the public to be patient and do their part.

“If I may speak up for our coworkers, they are tired, they’re worn out, but they continue to show up every day,” said Chad Smith, M.D. – chief medical officer at Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City.

“We have been working nearly nonstop for over two years now,” said Julie Watson, M.D. – chief medical officer at INTEGRIS Health. “Omicron cases are rising faster than previous variants and we are struggling to keep up.”

Dr. Watson said 117 patients are currently backed up in OKC metro emergency rooms while waiting for beds.

Oklahoma’s health care workers are struggling to make due with a lack of staff.

“We estimate over 1000 coworkers in quarantine are unable to come to work due to kids out of school and no available child care,” said Dr. Watson. “We are at times seeing more patients to one nurse or one doctor than we would have ever designed.”

While everyone is waiting for omicron cases to drop, we’re not there yet.

“In the past week, Oklahoma has gone from 47th in the nation for number of new cases per day,” said Dr. Dale Bratzler, chief COVID-19 officer at OU Health. “As of yesterday, we were up to 13th in the nation.”

Although the omicron variant is thought to be mild in comparison to other variants, it is especially contagious.

“Make no mistake, while you may feel that omicron variants are mild and dismissible, now is the time to realize that you couldn’t be further from the truth,” said Kersey Winfree, M.D. –  chief medical officer, SSM Health St. Anthony. “We are here today to sound an alarm. It is spreading rapidly, making many people with chronic illnesses sicker and disrupting our communities, as well as our health care workforce.”

Oklahoma already has a population that’s at a high risk of complications.

“Being immunosuppressed, having diseases like diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, cardiac disease, pulmonary disease and chronic liver disease are the known risk factors for complications,” said Dr. Bratzler.

But unlike the last surge, this time around, more children are being impacted.

P. Cameron Mantor, M.D. – acting chief medical officer at OU Health said what we are seeing today is vastly different than two years ago from a child’s perspective.

“Our number of children are 42 COVID patients in the children’s hospital,” said Dr. Mantor. “That’s two to three times higher than we’ve ever seen. That does include women’s, but there are upwards of 30 kids in the hospital and about six or seven of those are in the ICU.”

Hospitals across the state are seeking aid anywhere it is available.

“I was on a call with a colleague from a rural hospital yesterday that had spent time calling five hospitals in five different states trying to find an ICU bed for a patient with kidney failure and subsequently did not before the patient succumbed to the disease who had COVID and kidney failure,” said Dr. Bratzler.

Without knowing just how long this rollercoaster will last, Oklahoma doctors are also pleading with the public to be kind to those who are helping.

“Patients are angry about long wait times and often take their frustration out on our coworkers,” said Dr. Smith. “Please know our coworkers share that same frustration. No one wants to keep patients waiting for care.”

The doctors also emphasized to please only visit the ER if you have a true emergency, such as difficulty breathing. If you are just seeking a test, visit the multiple testing sites across the state.

To help stop the spread, the doctors have the same message for staying safe:

“We want you to be vaccinated and if you’re eligible for a booster, certainly do that because that risk of complications and hospitalization go down clearly if you’ve done those things,” said Dr. Bratzler.