OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Trauma center staff at OU Health Medical Center are speaking about what it’s like during the pandemic.
OU Medical Center is the state’s only level-one trauma center, which means they have the necessary staff available right away for the most severe injuries.
“COVID did not slow down ATVs, or motor vehicle speeds, or gravity,” Dr. David Teague, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in trauma care, said. “In fact, we may have had more time to ride our ATVs when we couldn’t go to work, so we actually have seen an uptick in severe injuries and the number of isolated injuries that still need treatment and put people out of commission.”
Dr. Roxie Albrecht, medical director of the trauma center, says they’ve seen more injuries from violence, suicide, and falls in older patients.
All of this leaves staff stressed, especially with COVID protocols.
“It’s physically uncomfortable, mentally straining, and we’ve seen increased numbers,” Albrecht said.
She says one of the hardest parts was communicating with families when no visitors were allowed.
“We were extremely busy during those times. To keep families abreast with what was going on with their loved ones, when their loved ones couldn’t speak, was draining,” Albrecht said.
Not knowing if patients have COVID is also difficult.
A staff shortage means everyone has to work harder.
“Our frontline providers have really suffered,” Teague said.
OU Health says critically injured patients are able to get care in the trauma center right away. For less severe injuries, wait times in the emergency room can be longer.
They have not had to divert any trauma patients during the pandemic.
“That patient can be in the OR in ten minutes and receive life saving surgery, that’s what we do whether the ER is otherwise full of COVID patients, or flu patients, or other types of patients with stroke or heart attack,” Teague said.
“We don’t have the ability to set aside beds. We shift beds, we may have a longer dwell time or a longer stay in the emergency department waiting for people to be discharged or leave the hospital and then to improve our throughput through the hospital,” Albrecht said. “We’ve seen our emergency department dwell time go up a little bit and that stresses those nurses who have to go from somebody staying there who’s ready to go into the hospital, to a new trauma that comes in and all the attention goes to that person who could die at a moment’s notice.”