Oklahoma health experts question reports, suggestions on hospital capacity

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TULSA, Okla. — The Oklahoma Hospital Association is studying if the state’s recent report on hospital bed capacity in eastern and southeastern Oklahoma accurately shows how many intensive care unit beds are actually available for patients from other parts of the state needing hospital care.

The Healthier Oklahoma Coalition hosted a discussion Tuesday to go over the COVID-19 response in Oklahoma.

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Questions on bed capacity

Patti Davis with the OHA said the fact that one region was in the green representing Tier 1, but touched Tulsa County and the Central Oklahoma regions which are both in Tier 3 could show a lag in hospitalization data.

Conversation on Oklahoma COVID-19 situation

CORONAVIRUS IN OKLAHOMA: Health experts are offering their expertise on Oklahoma's latest COVID-19 response. UPDATES >>> https://bit.ly/3lzlyS4

Posted by FOX23 News on Tuesday, December 1, 2020

The one region classified as East Central includes Muskogee, Creek, Cherokee, and Wagoner Counties to name a few.

Davis said it is possible that while East Central is showing they have a better bed capacity situation currently, the data showing their actual capacity could be lagging behind by a few days to a week.

“It’s something we need to look into,” Davis said.

“But I wouldn’t say it’s concerning.”

Dec. 1, 2020 - The Oklahoma Hospital Association is studying if the state’s recent report on hospital bed capacity in eastern and southeastern Oklahoma accurately shows how many intensive care unit beds are actually available for patients from other parts of the state needing hospital care.
Dec. 1, 2020 - The Oklahoma Hospital Association is studying if the state’s recent report on hospital bed capacity in eastern and southeastern Oklahoma accurately shows how many intensive care unit beds are actually available for patients from other parts of the state needing hospital care. (Oklahoma State Department of Health)

She said it’s possible the hospital data has not caught up with the health departments, and she said the East Central community is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases, so it’s not like that portion of the state magically found itself not having as many cases and issues related to it like every other part of Oklahoma.

The impression that the East Central region has open ICU beds just waiting for patients could very well be false in reality while the data that is collected catches up between the hospitals and state to account for a Thanksgiving week slowdown in reporting.

Using asymptomatic staff?

The Oklahoma Hospital Association says it does not currently see the need for asymptomatic medical workers to come to work and treat patients.

Davis says bringing in COVID-19-positive asymptomatic staff is the last resort that should only happen when the state’s entire hospital system is “maxed out”, which she said it is not and far from it.

Dec. 1, 2020 - The Oklahoma Hospital Association says it does not currently see the need for asymptomatic medical workers to come to work and treat patients.
Dec. 1, 2020 - The Oklahoma Hospital Association says it does not currently see the need for asymptomatic medical workers to come to work and treat patients. (FOX23)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the State of Oklahoma have indicated it is possible for asymptomatic medical workers to be called to work treating hospitalized COVID patients if needed.

Davis stressed that people need to wear and mask and take other mitigation efforts to keep Oklahoma’s hospitals from being maxed out to the point where asymptomatic medical workers would be needed.

“We don’t want to get to that point,” Davis said. “But that option is there if things get worse.”

Most of Oklahoma is in Tier 3 of the state’s hospital surge plan, and intensive care unit bed availability varies at times from just a few being open for new patients to none at all in some parts of the state.