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'Slow-Rolling Mass Casualty Event': Oklahoma Hospital Officials Sound Alarm As COVID Hospitalizations Approach Pandemic's Peak

Saint Francis Health System
A chart shows COVID hospitalizations at Saint Francis Health System throughout the pandemic.

One of Oklahoma’s largest medical systems announced it will be sharing COVID-19 hospitalization data in response to the latest surge.

Saint Francis Health System announced in a press conference Monday it created its own data dashboard. It will detail the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in their system, as well as a few other figures, such as the average age of those patients and hospitalizations in Saint Francis over time.

Officials said the average age of COVID patients at Saint Francis is 56, about ten years younger than the average patient during the last hospital surge in the winter.

In the first day’s data, the graph over time showed that current hospitalizations rival those of the post-Christmas peak.

Calling the pandemic a "slow-rolling, mass casualty event," Dr. Ryan Parker, chief of emergency medicine at Saint Francis, urged Oklahomans to get the vaccine and to wear masks. He explained the need to contain the virus as personal, not political.

"Our nurses and respiratory therapists and techs in radiology and our paramedics are all tired. We’ve been doing this for 18 months," said Parker.

The system’s president and CEO, Dr. Cliff Robertson, said that at current rates, the system might have to delay care for some patients to protect capacity for COVID patients. But, that brings about other problems.

"What we all learned was that helped a little, created a little capacity — not as much as we probably thought initially — and, quite honestly, created issues for us and for patients that had care that was delayed," said Robertson.

As of Monday, the statewide three-day average of hospitalizations was more than 1,400.

Vaccines are available through many doctors and pharmacies, or you can use the state's appointment portal at vaccinate.ok.gov or the federal vaccine locator at vaccinefinder.org.

Catherine Sweeney reports for StateImpact Oklahoma, focusing on health.
Ryan LaCroix is the Director of Content and Audience Development for KOSU.
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