Wednesday’s bed capacity update shows Stillwater Medical as a system that is under pressure but generally meeting the demands placed on it as COVID-19 infections climb rapidly.

SMC reported it had no Intensive Care or non-Intensive Care beds available. Five patients were on hold in the Emergency Room – three COVID patients and two non-COVID patients.

Out of 11 staffed ICU beds, four were occupied by COVID patients and seven were occupied by patients with other illnesses.

Out of 75 staffed non-ICU beds, 12 were occupied by COVID patients and 63 were occupied by patients with other illnesses or injuries.

The hospital has continued to use some of the expanded capacity it developed during the previous peak in hospitalizations. For example, it currently has 25 beds in an Emergency Room designed for 15, SMC Director of Public Relations Shyla Eggers said.

But the ability to treat patients still depends on staffing and like the rest of the community, many Stillwater Medical staff members are being exposed to the virus and testing positive.

The hospital and its clinics are already over capacity most days and quite a few staff members have been out due to COVID, which doesn’t help, she said. Rising COVID numbers just increase the stress on a staff that’s already stretched thin and put pressure on medical facilities that still have to take care of people with a variety of illnesses and injuries.

In addition to COVID-19, flu, strep throat and several other viruses, including a stomach bug are making the rounds.

“We have a lot of sick people that are sick with other things,” she said.

Several of Stillwater Medical’s walk-in clinics have recently been forced to temporarily close or stop taking patients due to lack of staffing. When a staff member goes out sick, there often isn’t anyone available to take their place, Eggers said. SMC is doing what it can to address the staffing issues.

The sheer number of people seeking tests is another part of the problem. Clinics are seeing a lot of people who don’t have symptoms and are seeking tests, but not treatment.

The Emergency Room isn’t ever the proper place to go if you aren’t very sick and just need a test, she said. Urgent care clinics are also not your best bet, especially if you’re looking for a rapid antigen test.

SMC’s clinics don’t offer the rapid tests. Patients will find the same PCR test offered by the Payne County Health Department, with the same wait time for results.

Eggers recommends people who only need a COVID test make an appointment through the Oklahoma State Department of Health portal or go to local retailers and pharmacies that offer COVID testing.

Although many locally-owned pharmacies stopped offering tests in favor of vaccinations, Central Drug recently announced it was gearing up to begin offering rapid antigen testing.

Most testing locations can be found and appointments can be scheduled online at oklahoma.gov/covid19/testing-sites.html.

Appointments can fill quickly through the portal, but are often available the same day at the Health Department, she said. PCHD is offering expanded COVID-19 testing hours at its Stillwater offices, 1321 W. Seventh Ave., on Saturday.

Appointments will be available through the scheduling portal for 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. testing slots.

Eggers said whatever people do, it’s important for them to take steps to protect others.

It might not affect you severely but you don’t know what it will do to someone else, she said. That doesn’t just apply to COVID-19, but to other illnesses that are spreading.

Eggers emphasized that masking will help to reduce the risk of transmitting any virus.

“A tight-fitting mask like an N95 or KN95 is best,” she said. “But any mask is better than none … It’s important to protect people no matter what it is.”

SMC still has screening procedures in place at all entrances, that hasn’t changed since they were updated in August. But visitation has not been limited at this time.

There could be cases where the hospital staff issues guidance about the best times to visit, but patients have the ability to have friends and family with them.

The hospital is advising people to be aware of their own health status before visiting and to not take chances with themselves or others.

“It you don’t need to be here, it’s best not to be,” Eggers said.

Twitter: @mcharlesNP

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