By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
Yukon’s hospital has been treating more asymptomatic and younger COVID-19 patients in recent weeks, the hospital’s chief says.
Emergency medical personnel at Integris Canadian Valley Hospital, 1201 Health Center Parkway, remain on the front lines since starting to see patients with the virus in March.
Initially, most patients were from the vulnerable category – those who are older or with underlying medical conditions.
“We’re seeing a young population right now,” INTEGRIS Canadian valley Hospital President Teresa Gray said. “We’re seeing the 18- up to the 40 to 50-year-olds. We’re seeing more of that.
“What we’re really seeing is many more asymptomatic people test positive. Right now, everybody who comes in for surgery or in-patient care – whether they’re symptomatic or not – gets a test for precaution. We’re seeing many more of those come back positive – in addition to the sick who are symptomatic.”
When lock downs began in March, the Yukon hospital already had a plan in place to respond to a possible virus outbreak locally.
“We had a lot of obstacles – not knowing what the virus was and not having the right supplies,” Gray said. “We didn’t even have enough masks and shields. We didn’t have enough hand sanitizer.”
The State of Oklahoma and Canadian County have seen a case surge over the past two months – earlier than most health experts predicted.
The hospital had initially dedicated COVID-19 unit on the third floor. Because of the need for bed space, that changed when the hospital started elective surgeries again.
“For the INTEGRIS system, we were the hospital that piloted ‘bedding’ patients in the appropriate location,” Gray said. “If you’re a COVID patient and you need intensive care, you’re (staying in a bed) in intensive care unit. If you’re a laboring mother who tests positive, you’re staying in the women’s center.”
These COVID-19 patients are placed in isolation rooms.
If a hospital staff member is taking care of COVID patients, they are not asked to take care of non-COVID patients.
“We do try to isolate the staff, and we try to make sure those assignments stay the same,” Gray said. “So, if you’re taking care of COVID yesterday, you will today too – until your next day off, just to keep some of the other staff safe.”
The hospital president reiterated her appreciation to many local organizations, businesses and individuals who have stood behind Yukon’s hospital personnel in recent months.
“This community has really banded together to support us and be there for whatever we might need – whether that’s supplies, food or appreciation,” Gray said. “It has really boosted the staff morale.
“We’re several months in, and the staff are really, really tired. We’re looking for an ‘end in sight’ and it doesn’t feel like it’s here yet. … It hasn’t really slowed down.”
A gift from the Yukon Rotary Club and BancFirst is the latest example of the community’s generosity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Club members recently presented restaurant gift cards to provide lunch and dinner for the hospital’s weekend and night teams.
“Our staff will greatly appreciate this kind gesture,” Gray told Yukon Rotarians.
Many hospital employees have been so busy recently they often don’t get to pick up lunch or dinner, she noted.
Yukon Rotarians wanted to show their support to the local hospital’s personnel who have faced great challenges in recent months as they treat patients who have the novel coronavirus.
“We wanted to recognize everything they’re doing for the community,” Yukon Rotary Club President Amanda Wiedemann said. “They are taking care of the health of everyone who lives here while putting themselves ‘on the line’.
“We really appreciate it and think they need to be acknowledged.”
The Yukon Rotary Club has a long-standing connection with Integris Canadian Valley.
Members have had their regular weekly lunch meetings in the hospital’s conference room for years, but that temporarily ended this spring due to virus concerns.
Instead, Yukon Rotarians meet via the Zoom video conferencing app.
“We miss meeting face-to-face,” Wiedemann said. “We really appreciate the hospital letting us utilize the conference room when we were meeting in person as a club.”
The ICVH president called the Yukon Rotary Club “great partners” and looks forward to when she can welcome them – and other community groups – back for their meetings and programs.
“We’ve had to stop that, and a lot of people have asked to come back,” Gray said. “We are so ready … but we need to see a pretty good downward trend (in cases).
“We’re not going to do anything until we see what happens with college and school resuming.”