COVID spike leading to shortage on beds

COVID-19 levels are at an all time high and with reports of hospital beds from neighboring communities nearing maximum capacity, the administration from Northeast Health Systems (NHS) Sequoyah Hospital in Sallisaw is making preparations.

Stephanie Six, NHS Sequoyah hospital administrator, said the hospital has added eight beds to prepare for more patients. Although the hospital does have open beds currently available, Six said the hospital wants to continue to provide care as needed.

“We have seen an impact on our skilled beds also as far as patients coming from outside our local community, needing placement. We are planning and prepared for other acutely ill patients as well,” Six said.

“We are very busy and thankful for the opportunity to be busy. Our community has responded very well to COVID and taking precautions that are needed. That, in itself, has helped our capacity.”

Other neighboring hospitals which take care of patients from Sequoyah County are also feeling the impact.

Hospitals in Fort Smith, Ark., reported their capacity of hospital beds is back up to summertime peak. Sebastian County had a single-day high Monday of 67 new cases making the county the fourth highest number in Arkansas. Hospitals such as Mercy is nearing at full capacity, reports indicate.

W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah is full with COVID-19 patients, tribal health officials announced this week.

The Cherokee Nation Communications Department issued the following statement Thursday:

“The Cherokee Nation’s W.W. Hastings Hospital ICU is full with COVID patients at this time. We do contract with other facilities for our patients that require hospitalization. The bed shortage has not been an issue thus far, and our medical staff work diligently to care for every patient, but the concern, like all other communities and states, is if this surge continues and surrounding hospitals become full.

“The Cherokee Nation has now surpassed 4,700 positive COVID-19 cases and we implore our tribal citizens and communities to wear masks and not gather in large gatherings especially as the holiday approaches. We want to protect our Cherokee elders and families from the spread of this virus and these measures can help ensure we have enough capacity to treat our patients.”

Cherokee Nation health experts have asked tribal leaders to help spread the word this holiday season “could be the deadliest” time of this pandemic and are asking people to not gather if they do not need to, according to a press statement.

“We really need to focus on asking the question of was there really a need to gather if you don’t have to,” Dr. Stephen Jones, Health Services executive director, told Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilors on Nov. 16.

“Our public health team will be the first to tell you it’s the social gatherings that are spreading this pandemic, spreading this virus more than ever. I’m pleading with you to help us spread the message in your communities and help us to slow this down.”

The CN’s top medical professionals offered COVID-19 updates over the course of Tribal Council committee meetings Nov. 16-17.

So far, more than 43,700 COVID-19 tests have been administered, Jones said.

“Many of our areas have doubled and tripled the amount of people showing up for testing,” he said. “Every time we set a record in one of our clinics’ drive-thru, it seems like the next day we break that record. As you know, the numbers have increased exponentially over the last few weeks.”

Since reporting began earlier this year, CN Health Services has logged more than 4,500 cases of COVID-19, an estimated 1,100 of which are active, along with 33 deaths. Spread of the virus is “as bad as it’s ever been,” Dr. David Gahn, CN Public Health medical director, said.

“You can see over the last two-and-a-half weeks, Oklahoma has gone straight up,” Gahn said of the recent spike in COVID-19 cases statewide. “This is distressing. This is exponential spread of the virus throughout Oklahoma. Every county in Oklahoma is in the red as far as the daily number of cases, and it’s looking really dire.”

Gahn added that between two-and-a-half and three weeks ago, the CN was seeing around 30 cases a day, but recently spiked to nearly 100 per day.

“Now we’ve flattened out at around 80 cases per day,” he said. “It’s really stressing our system with the exponential rise over the last two weeks.”

Jones lauded the efforts of health staff throughout the pandemic.

“Our staff is stressed. They’re tired,” he said. “They’ve been in a marathon for several months working seven days a week. Our health system doesn’t slow down. But they are dedicated and very, very determined to meet the needs of our patients.”

As of Thursday, Oklahoma’s COVID-19 cases reached 164,340 with 1,588 deaths reported in the state considered a record number as the nation enters into the much anticipated second wave of coronavirus. The national surge in hospitalizations is causing major concerns in ICU hospital beds and whether or not there will be enough physicians to oversee the caseload according to healthcare analysts.

According to information provided by the state, Oklahoma has an average of .34 ICU hospital beds and 2.39 certified physicians per 1,000 residents making Oklahoma the 22nd least prepared hospital capacity.

In Sequoyah County, cases were up to 1,635 Thursday with 1,375 recoveries and 14 deaths.

Sequoyah County Times

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