COVID-19 patients overflow at Tulsa hospital as virus cases rise

TULSA, Okla. — Tulsa area hospitals are starting to voice concerns about their intensive care unit capacity to elected officials and even in the public.

Thursday, OSU Medical Center in downtown Tulsa reported it opened its COVID-19 ward to its first nine patients since being established by the Army Corp of Engineers last spring.

The OSU COVID-19 ward was created for overflow purposes in case of a spike in hospitalizations caused by the infection. Before this week, all hospitals in the Tulsa metro were able to handle everyone who came to them with the Coronavirus who required intensive care.

In a statement to FOX23, St. Francis hospital in Tulsa said with the current influx of patients they are seeing, admissions will soon be unsustainable if we -- as a community are not able to slow down the community spread and transmission of COVID-19.

Hillcrest Hospital representatives released the following statement on their current status:

“We are seeing an increase of persons under investigation and COVID positive inpatients, including some of the sickest we’ve treated since the beginning of the pandemic.

Today, our ICU bed capacity is at 90 percent full, and we consistently run at 90 to 95 percent across our metro hospitals.

As numbers continue to increase, it is critical that our community acts now to slow the spread of the virus. This is a crucial moment where we can all do our part by masking, practicing social distancing, following proper hand washing and staying home when possible.”

While considering the passage of Tulsa’s new mask mandate, Tulsa city councilors were advised by numerous medical doctors that data showed 21% of COVID-19 patients who had to be hospitalized in intensive care units died.

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum praised the passage of the mask mandate, and after signing it into law, he said he felt the city could not just stand by and do nothing while hospitals were pleading for help from the public to help them slow down the infection rate.

Bynum said by requiring masks, the city hopes to not have to turn Expo Square and the Cox Convention Center into makeshift emergency care facilities after all area hospital beds were filled up, including the special COVID Ward at OSU.

The mask mandate is intended to slow the spread of COVID-19 droplets spread from person to person through inhalation. Bynum and others have said the goal is not to help the wearer of the mask as much as it is to keep asymptomatic people from giving the virus to someone whose body cannot handle it as well as their’s can.