OSDH allowing asymptomatic COVID-19 positive nurses to continue working in emergency situations

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma State Department of Health revealed on Tuesday that asymptomatic COVID-19 positive medical workers are cleared to continue working under CDC guidelines if a hospital is in dire need of staff. This announcement comes as Oklahoma hospitals continue to remain short-staffed.

“I am exhausted and my coworkers are exhausted,” metro ER nurse Nikki Larson said. “We feel used and abused. We are going above and beyond when the general public isn’t doing anything.”

Meanwhile, the Oklahoma Nurses Association and the Oklahoma Organization of Nurse Executives are both waiting on a response from the state on how they plan to step in and help with the staffing shortage.

“To me, that seems like the most insane thing,” Chief Medical Officer at Comanche County Memorial Hospital Dr. Scott Michener said. “You won’t mandate a mask, but you’re allowing COVID-19 positive health workers to work.”

“We are exacerbating our current nursing shortage,” Jane Nelson with the Oklahoma Nurses Association said.

Oklahoma is ranked 46th in the number of nurses per capita.

Jane Nelson with the Oklahoma Nurses Association helped craft the following letter addressed to the State Capitol.

Photo goes with story
A letter from the Oklahoma Nurses Association to Gov. Kevin Stitt.
Photo goes with story
Page 2 of a letter from the Oklahoma Nurses Association to Gov. Kevin Stitt.

ONA expressed hope Gov. Kevin Stitt will take proactive measures, including crowdsourcing nurses, using Cares Act money to fund scholarships to offset nurse refresher courses, enforcing a statewide face mask mandate and launching a marketing campaign to attract nurses.

“We need help bringing in nurses from other states like New York and New Jersey did in April,” Nelson said.

However, Nelson says the problem is Stitt’s office hasn’t responded to their letter in over two weeks.

However, Stitt’s Office sent KFOR the following statement:

“Senior officials from the Governor’s Office and the Oklahoma State Department of Health are in daily contact with Chief Medical Officers and other leaders and administrators from our hospitals and we continue to work through potential solutions to nursing challenges. Nursing issues are the main focus of a meeting tomorrow night as these discussions continue.

I know there have been talks of using asymptomatic COVID+ nurses only to treat COVID patients but I don’t have anything to report regarding the governor’s position on that topic at this time.”

KFOR received word late Tuesday night State Commissioner of Health Dr. Lance Frye has set up a Zoom meeting with the Oklahoma Nurses Association and the Oklahoma Organization of Nurse Executives to listen to their concerns scheduled for next week.

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