Stillwater Medical Center issued a Code Green disaster declaration Thursday, driven by full hospital beds and large numbers of staff out due to illness, as COVID-19 cases spike.
The Payne County Health Department is reporting that as of Wednesday, case numbers in the county increased 269.2% over the previous week. Payne County had 576 new cases according to the Health Department. Less than half the county's population — 49.4% — is fully vaccinated. Among people age five and over, 60.35 have at least one dose.
"In response to a record number of positive COVID-19 cases, and the overwhelming demand on our healthcare system, Stillwater Medical has declared a Code Green, which indicates an external disaster is in effect, causing critical internal staffing levels," hospital officials said in statement sent to media and posted on social media.
Declaring an emergency gives the hospital the ability to consolidate resources, implement crisis strategies and re-evaluate procedure schedules to help meet the hospital's staffing needs, they explained.
SMC physician Dr. Mary Clarke, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, told State Impact's Catherine Sweeney more than 130 workers are out at SMC because of exposures and positive tests.
With beds full, including the ICU, and patients on hold in the Emergency Room, It’s not a great time for doctors, nurses and support staff to be sick, Clarke said. This is different than earlier surges she's seen at SMC because other illnesses like strep and influenza are spreading.
"Last year’s widespread masking and distancing also prevented those other viruses from spreading. Now, next to the COVID patients, there are these others. All the while, more staff is out, quarantining from community spread," Sweeney wrote.
Stillwater Medical is seeing a record number of healthcare workers out with COVID-19, which has further stretched staffing resources.
“It is important for the public to understand that our resources to provide care for our community are extremely strained right now,” SMC Director of Public Relations Shyla Eggers wrote. “We are seeing a record number of patients daily which has resulted in our Emergency Department, our inpatient units, including ICU, and both of our urgent care locations to be at or over maximum capacity.”
Demand for testing is another source of strain.
“Testing for COVID-19 is an important step in decreasing the spread and keeping our community safe,” Necia Kimber, System Director of Quality and Infection Control, said. “However, due to large increases in positive cases and patient loads in the Emergency departments and urgent care clinics, we would like to encourage those who are seeking testing only and not medical care to utilize the alternate testing locations.”
Hospital officials said they are pleading with community members to help reduce the rapid spread of COVID-19 and help alleviate the current strain on all healthcare systems by getting vaccinated and wearing a mask in public settings.
Kimber is asking people who have been exposed or the virus or who are experiencing symptoms to follow CDC recommendations related to testing and isolation.
The information can be found at cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/quarantine-isolation-background.html