Stillwater health professionals talk about working to find care for COVID, non-COVID patients

Health care professionals across the state feel nurses were seen as heroes when the pandemic began. That feeling has faded as they continue to fight the latest wave of the pandemic.

At Stillwater Medical, an overflow tent was set up as the emergency room was full of patients. They weren’t the only ones. All hospitals in the state were experiencing similar stress.

This prevented doctors from transferring patients who needed higher levels of care. In one case, hospital officials attempted to move a patient to more than a dozen different hospitals to no avail. The patient died under their care.

Stillwater Medical health officials said in some cases they would call many hospitals in the state, sometimes even those in other states like Arkansas or Texas, to find a bed for a patient. When these beds are not found, it sometimes means that a life is lost.

“These situations have happened all over Oklahoma,” said Dr. Woody Jenkins, doctor of internal medicine at Stillwater Medical. “When we didn’t have the ability to transfer patients from rural hospitals that didn’t have the capacity to perform the procedures that needed to be done on those patients.”

Jenkins said in one case they called dozens of hospitals to find an intensive care bed for a patient. This effort ultimately failed and tragically this patient died.

“It was very common that all over Oklahoma we were transferring people all over the country,” Jenkins said.

He said these situations hit nurses hard.

“A room nurse took a while off due to COVID and the stress, and she was having flashbacks of suffocating people,” Jenkins said.

So far this year, Stillwater Medical has lost 50 nurses and their RN turnover is over 20%. He said that once the pandemic is behind us, it will be a long road to recovery for healthcare workers.

“They learned more than they wanted to about COVID,” Jenkins said. “Ventilators and How to Use a Body Bag.”

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