Hospitals throughout the three-state region are reporting limited to no space in their intensive care units and emergency room departments as COVID-19 continues to affect communities and health care workers.
In Jasper County, there’s been an average of over 100 new daily COVID-19 cases since Jan. 4. Joplin’s two largest hospitals are also seeing an increase in COVID-19 patients, with a total of 106 between them Tuesday.
Mercy Joplin reported 63 COVID-19 patients Monday, the highest number that it has seen in weeks. On Tuesday, Mercy Joplin had a total of 62 COVID-19 patients with 11 people in the ICU and eight on ventilators.
Jordan Larimore, a hospital spokesperson, said people are experiencing longer ER wait times with the rise in COVID-19 patients and staff shortages.
“For some context, we had stayed between 29 and 44 COVID-19 patients for the rest of the month until spiking to 55 COVID-19 patients on Jan. 16,” he said.
In an interview with the Globe last week, President Jeremy Drinkwitz said the hospital was struggling to admit transfer patients from other regional hospitals.
Freeman Health System on Tuesday reported 44 COVID-19 patients at its Joplin hospital and three patients at its Neosho location. There were 22 patients in the medical COVID-19 unit with 10 patients in the ICU, three on ventilators and nine patients in other areas of the hospital Tuesday.
Springfield is also seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. The Springfield-Greene County Health Department reported a 29% increase in cases over the last seven days. On Tuesday, there were 165 COVID-19 patients in CoxHealth and 107 patients at Mercy Hospital in Springfield, according to officials.
A grim picture is being painted in Oklahoma where hospitals are warning people not to expect immediate trauma care due to limited staff and the influx of COVID-19 patients.
As of Tuesday, there were 842,996 active cases of COVID-19 in Oklahoma with an average of 10,476 new positive cases over the past seven days, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
Integris Miami Hospital in Ottawa County took to social media on Friday to describe how its emergency departments are overflowing. The Miami hospital posted on Facebook that it had to deny 447 patient transfer requests to one of their hospitals in seven days.
“Our emergency departments are overflowing,” Integris Miami Hospital wrote on Facebook last week. “We have zero ICU beds available. No inpatient beds available. We have 55 holds across our Emergency Departments, these patients are being held in rooms, hallways, etc., waiting on inpatient or ICU beds, which are not available.”
Four hospitals in Oklahoma City — St. Anthony, Mercy, Integris and Oklahoma University Health — reported no available ICU beds and that they had a total of 737 COVID-19 patients on Monday.
“The latest COVID-19 surge has put an overwhelming strain on the Oklahoma City health care community,” according to a joint statement. “Patients are experiencing long waits in emergency departments, delays in care, and hospitals and clinics are struggling to keep up with the demand for testing.”
Top physicians from the metro’s four major health systems released an open letter Tuesday to all Oklahomans urging compassion and compliance. In the letter, officials wrote that area health systems are at “a breaking point” as resources and staff continue to be strained by the omicron variant.
The letter was signed by Julie Watson, chief medical officer at Integris Health; Chad Smith, chief medical officer at Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City; P. Cameron Mantor, acting chief medical officer at OU Health; and Kersey Winfree, chief medical officer at 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,” officials said in the letter. “This pandemic isn’t just impacting care for COVID patients.
“We have 300 fewer beds than we did last year at this time, but we have the same number of COVID positive patients in the hospital — and this number will continue to go up, at least for the next few weeks,” the letter continued. “It’s a desperate battle and we need you to be aware and help.”
The four physicians held a virtual briefing Tuesday where they discussed the pandemic in Oklahoma and asked the public to practice patience with the strained health care systems.
Dale Bratzler, chief COVID-19 officer at OU Health, said that over the past week, Oklahoma has gone from ranking 47th in the nation for new cases per day to ranking 13th as of Monday.
“The surge has clearly moved into Oklahoma, and I think we’re a good week to 10 days behind the East Coast,” he said. “I do expect cases to continue to go up.”
The Crawford County Health Department in Southeast Kansas is anticipating an even bigger increase in COVID-19 infections and breakthrough infections in fully vaccinated people over the coming months.
The hospital capacity in Crawford County is also reaching dangerously high levels. Capacity is based on the number of beds, staffing and equipment availability.
On Tuesday, there was only 15% remaining capacity in medical/surgery and 5% to 10% remaining ICU capacity in Crawford County hospitals, according to the health department’s public health officer.
“Though mostly mild, the increase in cases inevitably means we risk overloading our county’s hospitals as the virus spreads even more among the less-protected, unvaccinated population,” the Crawford County Health Department posted Tuesday on Facebook. “This radically reduces the hospitals’ ability to serve communities, even those without COVID who need medical care.”
Ascension Via Christi Hospital in Pittsburg also wrote on social media how the region’s health care workers and hospitals are stretched to capacity.
“They want to be able to ensure they can continue to treat everyone needing help, including other serious illnesses and accidents, such as cancer, heart attacks and broken limbs, in addition to COVID-19,” the hospital said on Facebook late last week.