“Our staff is burned out, wondering how we’ll survive yet another surge”: Oklahoma health systems detail strains from rising COVID-19 hospitalizations

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Four prominent health systems in Oklahoma came together Tuesday morning to update the public and share the difficulties their hospitals are seeing as COVID-19 cases rise due to the delta variant.

Top officials from Mercy Health, Integris, OU Health and SSM Health St. Anthony all detailed how increased hospitalizations are putting a strain on staff, beds and patient care.

“Our resources are stretched beyond our limits,” said SSM St. Anthony ICU nurse Regan Wickwire. “Our staff is burned out wondering how we’ll survive yet another surge.”

Hospitalization numbers continue to increase in the state as the delta variant is impacting younger demographics of people than last year’s alpha variant.

“We are seeing critical covid patients in 20s, 30s, 40s this time around with a lot of life to live,” Wickwire said, later adding, “Patients wake up with a cough on Monday and by Friday we’re having to tell their families there’s nothing else we can do.”

All four health systems mentioning how COVID-19 hospitalizations are starting to affect non-COVID patients.

Mercy Hospital Stroke Medical Director Dr. Bahar Malakouti says many of these emergency patients need treatment as soon as possible but are forced to wait.

“If you get in a car accident, have a heart attack, need an emergency surgery, or, yes, even if you have a stroke, there is a chance you might not be able to get the time sensitive care you need,” Malakouti said. “These are medical emergencies where every minute is crucial.”

In some cases, these wait times have caused detrimental effects.

“Some of these patients may die or they may have permanent disabilities for the rest of their lives,” Malakouti said.

And despite the pressure on staff, Wickwire detailed the commitment they have to those who don’t survive.

“Our team has committed no one dies alone on our watch,” Wickwire said. “I can’t tell you how many patients I’ve sat next to, stroked their faces and let them know they were loved and appreciated.”

The state’s top doctors say the key to getting things back to normal is to take the COVID vaccine.

Dr. Malakouti pleading with Oklahomans, saying: “We are begging you, please get vaccinated and wear your masks until we can get on the other side of this.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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