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Oklahoma City hospitals are at breaking point, health care system leaders say

<i>Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman/Imagn Content Services
Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman/Imagn Content Services

By Ed Lavandera and Chris Boyette, CNN

Oklahoma City hospitals are short of staff and overwhelmed, with no ICU or inpatient beds available as the Omicron variant causes a surge of Covid-19 patients, according to an open letter from leaders of the city’s four major health care systems.

“Our emergency departments are overflowing. Our caregivers are still strong, but they are exhausted. Even these heroes can’t keep up much longer. The Oklahoma City Health Care System is at a breaking point,” Monday’s letter said.

It was signed by the chief medical officers of INTEGRIS Health, Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City, Oklahoma University Health hospitals and SSM Health St. Anthony.

“Soon, you or a loved one may need us for life-saving care, whether for a stroke, emergency appendectomy or trauma from a car accident, and we might not be able to help. This pandemic isn’t just impacting care for Covid patients,” the letter said.

On Monday morning, 107 patients were waiting for beds in Oklahoma City emergency rooms, according to the letter.

The four health systems have 300 fewer beds than they did last year at this time, but the same number of Covid-19 patients in the hospital — and they expect more patients in the coming weeks, the letter said.

There were 12,841 new cases of Covid-19 in Oklahoma Monday, bringing the total of active cases in the state to 110,244 with a seven-day rolling average for new cases of 10,642, according to the latest numbers from the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

In addition, the letter cited hundreds of health care workers in quarantine or unable to come to work because of children out of school, a situation which has “crippled our already limited staff.”

The letter encouraged the public to not to go to the emergency room for Covid-19 testing, but to go to community testing locations, and reserve emergency departments for very sick people.

“We need you to know what we are up against. We need your help …” the letter said. “Get vaccinated. Get boosted. Wear your mask. Socially distance. Stay home if you’re sick.”

The letter also called on the public to be kind to health care workers.

“Patients are coming to us struggling to cope with life stressors, and violence against health care workers is at an all-time high,” the letter said.

“Our caregivers are wounded from this two-year battle and are being asked to work under unconscionable conditions. Please be kind and patient with them.”

CNN has reached out to the Oklahoma State Department of Health for comment.

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